In my blog profile I have listed five of my favorite movies, and I think it’s time I reviewed them for you, beginning with The Shawshank Redemption. Stephen King wrote a short novel, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (which appears in the book
Different Seasons). Frank Darabont adapted the story into a feature length screenplay. After I originally viewed the film, I read the novella, and concluded that Mr. Darabont couldn’t have done a better job of bringing Mr. King’s tale to the screen. Mr. Darabont also directs the film, and later The Green Mile. It is rated R for language and prison violence.
Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is a banker convicted in 1947 of murdering his wife and her lover. He is sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for the crime, which he maintains he did not commit. Andy arrives at Shawshank Prison, where he has to adapt to the rough prison life, sometimes having to fight for his life. He becomes friends with a group of men, and especially with Red (Morgan Freeman), a man who has already served 20 years of a life sentence, and who is someone who knows how to get things smuggled into the prison. Morgan Freeman provides the narration in the film from Red’s point of view.
Warden Norton (Bob Gunton) believes in discipline and the Bible, and is as amoral as a prison warden could get. Andy’s skills on the outside as a banker and financial planner also serve him well in prison. I was initially worried about the violence that I knew would be depicted in this movie, but it is held to a minimum. I don’t want to say much more because I’d like you to be as delighted, moved, and surprised as I was, as the film unfolds (never let anyone tell you how this movie ends if you haven’t seen it before).
The story of Andy and his imprisonment is a metaphor for life, and the film is just brilliant. Beautifully written jewels of wisdom are sprinkled throughout the dialogue and narration. Thomas Newman composed a beautiful and haunting score for the film. The Shawshank Redemption received 7 Academy Award nominations, and didn’t win any of them. Yet it is a classic film, and once people see it, they will never forget it, sure to become a favorite for the rest of their lives.
This is the role Mr. Freeman should have won his Academy Award for. He lost to Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump, which also won Best Picture. Had Forrest Gump not come along that year, it may have fared better at the Awards. I think that ultimately it is the better film, even though I loved Forrest Gump. The Shawshank Redemption is one of the few films I’ll watch again and again, just to be reminded of its message of hope.