A great movie all the way
Darabont adapts this from the Stephen King short novel, "Rita Hayworth & the Shawshank Redemption," and unlike many adaptations of the prolific writer's work, this one is successful because it transforms the written page into what works best cinematically, which is, after all, the correct way to adapt literature. Tim Robbins (Short Cuts, Tapeheads) plays Andy Dufresne, a successful banker who is found guilty of the murder of his wife and her lover shortly after he has discovered the infidelity. He is sentenced to two life sentences, and summarily shipped off the Shawshank State Prison to spend the remainder of his days. Life is hard for the numbers cruncher who walks with a "silver spoon shoved up his ass," because there's an uncaring warden (Gunton, Patch Adams), a strict head of security (Brown, Highlander), and a gang called the Bull Queers, who make it a regular habit to strip Andy's humanity from him at every opportunity. But there's more than meets the eye with Andy, as they can't kill his spirit, his hope, his dreams, or his talents.
In a film filled with so many strong points, it becomes almost impossible to list everything, so I'll just stick to the main reasons why Shawshank Redemption is the best film of the 1990s. First, there's the aforementioned brilliance of its main auteur, Frank Darabont. Although a relative beginner, Darabont clearly understands how to tell a story, not telegraphing all of the film's main plot points before it's time for us to know them, savoring each surprise until the right time to show us the full story. It would have been very easy to tell this story in a linear mode, but Darabont's patience with the material allows us to not jump too far ahead of the story, creating an atmosphere of mystique that never wears off. Although it's a drama, there is an aura of the fantastic about the story, so that even if some strange coincidences abound, it is well established that extraordinary things can occur in the most unlikely of ways.
Then, there's composer Thomas Newman's (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) gorgeous score, a real masterwork that elevates the film to the heavens with its richness and elegance. It's quite the beautiful piece of music, and unlike many films of this nature, it isn't oversaturated by being utilized in every scene. Newman picks and chooses the right times for the right pieces of music, and allows Shawshank Redemption to gain the profoundness of themes as a result. It's hard to imagine one could improve it.
Lastly, there are the fine performances, with Robbins giving one of his best in a role that requires him to be cold but vulnerable, distant yet caring. Whatever difficulty the role requires must have been greatly influenced by the stellar work by Morgan Freeman (Unforgiven, Chain Reaction) as Red, Andy's friend and mentor in the prison. His performance as the narrator of the film, as well as the main supporting character, could not be better. Red has a strength of mind and soul that others seem to lack, yet he is also human, as apt to fail as any other person in the prison, but his common sense keeps his bacon out of the fire. Although King's original story had Red as an Irishman, Darabont properly goes for what works best cinematically once again, and Freeman is so phenomenal in the role, it's as though he were born to play it.
Shawshank lasts two hours and twenty minutes, but its resonance stays with you forever.
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The Shawshank Redemption
The last place one would expect to find hope would be a prison. Likewise, the last movie in which one would expect to find hope is a prison movie. However, in The Shawshank Redemption, hope is exactly what we get.
The Shawshank Redemption is the story of Andy Dufrense (Tim Robbins); a man accused of murdering his wife and her lover and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. He is shipped to Shawshank Maximum Security Prison, in Shawshank, Maine, to spend the duration of his life. Over the next years (two hours, movie time), he finds his way to inner peace and holds onto great hope in the midst of the terror of the prison system.
The Shawshank Redemption is one of those films that is a true work of both art and magic. It is a work of art in the fact that it can so perfectly paint the picture of a man who will not relinquish the only thing someone cannot directly take away: hope. It is a work of magic in the fact that you are completely enveloped in Shawshank. From the first shot of Shawshank prison -- an utterly gothic structure that permeates you with a sense of just how frightening the prison will be -- you are enveloped inside of the world of Shawshank. You experience a prison life composed of routine after routine after routine.
The performances in Shawshank are top notch. The commentary upon the justice system is both thoughtful and thought provoking. Yet, despite all of its greatness, Shawshank's script leaves a little to be desired. I suppose such happens when one is using Stephen King as the source for a serious movie. Shawshank's characters are cliched. There is Red (Freeman), the convict who gets things, who says at one point "I suppose there's a convict like me in every prison." Also, Andy plays the stereotype of the innocent man, doing time for a crime he did not commit. The story is basically predictable. The dialogue has a propensity to get preachy.
Despite these flaws, The Shawshank Redemption is a film with remarkable staying power. It is able to sustain itself throughout its duration and to keep you enraptured with its remarkably hopeful story. In the end of it all, Andy Dufrense will escape Shawshank.
My husband says, It's 'Beaches' for straight men."
The Shawshank redemption
Andy Dufresne, is sent to Shawshank Prison for the murder of his wife and secret lover. He is very isolated and lonely at first, but realizes there is something deep inside your body, that people can't touch and get to....'HOPE'. Andy becomes friends with prison 'fixer' Red, and Andy epitomizes why it is crucial to have dreams. His spirit and determination, leads us into a world full of imagination, filled with courage and desire. Will Andy ever realize his dreams?