“The Shawshank Redemption” (Film Review)

Every now and then I see a film that completely wrecks me. I see a film that I know will stick with me for a long time. This is quite possibly one of the greatest films ever made.

Directed by: Frank Darabont

Cast: Morgan Freeman, Tim Robbins, Bob Gunton, Clancy Brown, and William Sadler.

Plot: Andy Dufresne (Robbins) is a banker accused of killing his wife and her secret lover. Andy is sentenced to two life sentences, despite his plea of being not guilty. He is taken to Shawshank prison, a place of extreme brutality and cruelty. Andy soon meets Red (Freeman), a fellow prisoner, and the two soon become great friends. Over the course of nineteen years, Andy build himself into a well respected, and innovative inmate.

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The greatest strength of Shawshank Redemption are it’s characters. Andy, played by Tim Robbins, is different from the other inmates. There’s just something about him, and Red, played by Morgan Freeman, takes notice. The friendship that blossoms between the two men is the driving force of the film. Robbins and Freeman both give incredible performances, and were shockingly snubbed at the Oscars. Not only do Freeman and Robbins shine, but the entire cast of this film does as well. In particular, I want to mention briefly the character Brooks, wonderfully played by James Whitmore. His role in the film is small, but he’s possibly one of the most important characters in a way.

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Aesthetically, the film is very well made. Frank Darabont directs his own screenplay superbly. The writing is so authentic, so powerful, with incredible, natural dialogue. Roger Deakins, the cinematographer, does an amazing job shooting this film. It’s simply gorgeous to look at. Not only is the film visually pleasing, the score by Thomas Newman is powerful, emotional, and memorable. It captures perfectly the soul of the film.

Ultimately, the film is a story of redemption. This is a difficult review to write, as the film was more of an experience than anything else. You really grow to care about Andy, who I felt was more of the central character, despite the nominations for Freeman. You want so desperately or the man to be innocent. He works his way to the top, doing taxes for prison guards, even the warden himself. The film really gets you to think about the idea of redemption, and whether or not people deserve it or can even achieve it. What if Andy really did murder his wife and her lover? If the film came out right and told us he did, would we still like him? Would we rejoice in his escape?

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“The Shawshank Redemption” is as powerful as it sounds. I have heard it labeled, “overrated”, and maybe it is. Perhaps it is considered to be this grand masterpiece because of it’s emotional heft. Perhaps I’m foolish for agreeing with most people; it is truly incredible. Everything second of this film was powerful. Sure, it feels a lot longer than two hours, but it was well worth the going through. It wasn’t just a film, it was an experience.

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