The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 American drama motion-picture based on a 1992 Stephen King novella. Directed and written by Frank Darabont, it pivots on Andy Dufrense (Tim Robbins) and his life of struggle alongside other prisoners in a state prison called Shawshank State Penitentiary after being sentenced for killing his wife as well as her lover.
I always find great satisfaction in knowing that a certain actor was meant to play a certain role in a movie and as a strong fan of the project they signed up for as well as their portrayal, you wouldn’t want it any other way. Tim Robbins, for me, fit the character of Andy Dufrense like a glove. In the film, the latter was indeed someone who felt emotionally broken by his ‘wrongful conviction’ but at the same time, he was someone who knew that his old life was over and that he had to adapt to his new surroundings as soon as possible.
Outstanding would definitely be an understatement to describe his life behind bars. He is one to break the status quo and it almost got him into trouble when Captain Hadley (Clancy Brown) threatened to throw him off the top of a building. Andy knew that in the beginning there would be resistance to his new ways but being the unwavering man that he is, as the movie establishes in the opening scenes during his court trial, you tend to see how and why he is adaptable to such. Besides, he grows into a very valuable asset in the correctional facility because of his skillset and knowledge in finances that he certainly made Hadley aware of during that particular stand-off.
I strongly felt like Andy’s journey in this film, through his actions and in his speech, was intended to convince the audience member that he indeed wasn’t responsible for his wife’s murder; to shed out any doubt you might have previously had on him given his accounts of the night when fatal crime went down. Whether it was convincing Brooks (James Whitmore) not to stab one of his buddies in the neck or even going through a life-threatening ordeal so that his work-mates and friends could enjoy a bunch of cold beers, I got that selfless side to the character who wanted out of the pitiful misery and it was nothing short of inviting. Despite the fact that he eventually does break the law by breaking out of the prison, I was so much attached to Andy and his life from the moment he set foot in that reformatory that I understood why he had to do it.
Ellis “Red” Boyd, played gracefully and in most cases seamlessly by a very talented actor in Morgan Freeman deserves just as much credit as Andy in the delivery of this story. Ellis delivers in two fronts. First off, he does it through his informative narrations; painting a vivid picture of what Shawshank is all about as well as how it operates. Secondly, his actions in this movie were very much befitting of a man who has been locked up for as long as he has. He knows how to smuggle things into the facility, he knows all the sects of prisoners e.g. “The Sisters” and what their agendas are, he knows the wardens and how they behave; he is basically an institutionalized man as he so put it when in conversation with Tim Robbins’ character. It was a marvel seeing the genesis of his relationship with Andy; he placed a bet on him that he would be the first to cry in his first day in prison and he lost it. You get to see this ego-centric side to ‘Red’ in that he wasn’t happy being on the losing side not only because it cost him a few cigarettes but also because he thought he could easily read into a new prisoner’s personality.
The relationship kicks off almost immediately; the way they gel with one another was great. Both Ellis and Andy emit a brotherly vibe towards each other in most of the scenes they were in and it was alluring to see that stay intact through the thick and thin situations of their respective prison sentences.
William Sadler is an actor who I draw a lot of inspiration from; I liked his role as the Sherriff in the teen drama series “Roswell” and I equally liked his role on here as Heywood. He does have his demons but in the company of Ellis, Andy and his gang of friends, that part of him is suppressed significantly and we get to see a more productive and helpful side to the convict.
May God rest his soul in eternal peace, James Whitmore’s character Brooks Halten had an emotional arc in the flick and I felt it. He is released from Shawshank prison after 50 solid years which he served as the prison’s librarian. As a viewer, I was heartbroken to see him transition from an ‘institutionalised’ life to a life he could barely comprehend given how much time has passed and a life he knew he needed to adopt to quickly because his survival depended on it. He is given a job at a store where he packs goods in bags for customers but as an old man, he just wasn’t effective enough. This particular aspect along with him feeling he had no purpose to serve in life anymore drove him to suicide; a painful and heart-wrenching one at that.
The Premise, Merits and Demerits.
I am definitely not a convicted criminal myself but I am more than convinced that any convict would dread being in a prison like Shawshank. It’s a prison that repeatedly denies parole to long serving felons like Ellis despite very convincing pitches of why it is deserved. A prison where you can have a warden call you foul names straight to your face and hit you in the jugular with a baton even though it’s the very first day. A prison where a tall and intimidating warden has the ability to beat the living soul out of you, literally. A prison with homosexuals who exclusively find you attractive in an erotic type of way; ready to fight you till you’re defenseless so that they can do their stuff on you, if you know what I mean. It was exciting to have the movie show me all these aspects to the penitentiary more so because it gave an additional pound of flesh to the riveting story of Andy Dufrense as well as his trusted inmates.
If you watched this film and you hadn’t felt Frank Darabont’s presence then chances are, you saw a rip-off, just saying. The director has all hands on deck here in every sense. The wide aerial shots of Shawshank in specific instances during the movie’s runtime felt incredibly inclusive; Darabont understood the need for the audience to get a feel of the prison’s structure and I duly applaud his successful efforts. The dialogue can best be described as informative, meaningful and appropriate; there is not a single time where it failed to strike a chord with me. Finally, the acting is otherworldly; and I’m not just talking about the performances of the main characters in Tim Robbins’ and Morgan Freeman’s.
My one and only gripe with this photoplay is that the aging aspect wasn’t handled in the most believable way possible. Yes Andy and the gang do get grey hair as time elapses in the correctional facility but I wasn’t swayed fully; maybe it’s an issue that facial prosthetics could have solved. That said, it’s a negligible gripe so please don’t roast me on the issue in the comment at the end of this synopsis; it’s a humble and sincere plea.
There is an incredibly stark contrast between the Thomas who watched The Shawshank Redemption just recently as opposed to the Thomas who watched the motion-picture as a toddler. Back then, I didn’t give a damn about the enthralling plot, the exceptional character performances, the stellar cinematography as well as the breathtaking production design of the prison and understandably so, I was 9 years old people. This Frank Darabont movie is now unquestionably one of the best movies I have ever seen as far as its genre is concerned, why not?