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The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.

Directed by:

Frank Darabont

Rating: 10/10

Running Time: 137 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Tim Robbins stars as Andy Dufresne, a successful young banker who is sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife and her lover. Andy is sent to Shawshank prison, a dour and depressing place where brutality from both guards and other prisoners is commonplace. Andy makes friends with Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman), a lifer who has already spent many years inside. Red specialises in smuggling items into the prison for the other prisoners. Red soon discovers that Andy is a most unusual prisoner, although at first it seems to do him little good – he is brutalised by other prisoners

He starts to get both other prisoners and guards on his side when he offers to help one of the most notorious guards with a tax problem in exchange for bottles of chilled beer for everyone in his work party. From then on, Andy always seems to be working on one thing or another. He improves the prison’s tiny library, and helps those prisoners who want to study. He also handles the guards’ tax returns, and even helps the swindling Warden (Bob Gunton) cook the books. Over the years, he gains the respect of most of the other prisoners and guards. More importantly, he never loses hope for the future – a hope he tries to pass on to the other prisoners. He never stops believing in life’s possibilities, but to make the most of them he needs to be free.

Based on the Stephen King (non-horror) novella “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”, this is a simple story of hope made remarkable by the interaction between the two lead characters. Both Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman do a fine job in terms of making their roles genuine and appealing, and also in the way they work so well together. The production values throughout are outstanding, but this is not a “fancy” film. Rather, it sticks to the story it is telling without resorting to flashy tricks to grab the audience’s attention. Although there is violence, some of it extreme, it is necessary to show the kind of place the prison is and is certainly not gratuitous. The main theme is hope, not despair, and the violence serves only as a backdrop to that message. Unashamedly a feelgood movie, by the end one is wishing only that it would continue for a few more moments.

It's Got: A simple story told with poignancy.

It Needs: To continue the story just a little longer.

DVD Extras Seeing the sub-plots separately and watching how they develop is particularly interesting. Extras: Theatrical trailer, Interviews, Biographies, Sub-plots DVD Extras Rating: 5/10

Alternatives:

Birdman of Alcatraz, The Green Mile, The Hurricane

Summary

This is a simple and touching tale graced with great depth and commitment. An uplifting must-see movie.

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