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Framed in the 1940s for the double murder of his wife and her lover, upstanding banker Andy Dufresne begins a new life at the Shawshank prison, where he puts his accounting skills to work for an amoral warden. During his long stretch in prison, Dufresne comes to be admired by the other inmates -- including an older prisoner named Red -- for his integrity and unquenchable sense of hope.
When it comes to reviews, the words "classic", "perfect", and "flawless" seem to be tossed around much too liberally. I'm guilty of this myself, I'll admit that, but how many movies truly deserve that perfect rating of 10/10? How many movies are truly the cream of the crop, the greatest achievements in cinematic history? How many of them can be watched time and time again and still have the same impact during your hundredth viewing as it did on your first? There are very few movies that fit in this category, but The Shawshank Redemption is one of them, no doubt about it.
Review by Chad
Added: August 14, 2008
The storyline follows convicted felon Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) over the course of twenty years in the Shawshank maximum security prison, where he will meet some of the best friends of his life, encounter corruption on an unprecedented level, fight off other prisoners who want to make good use of the "fresh fish", and eventually... well, everyone's seen the movie, but I won't spoil it for the lone soul who may have missed out on it. Really, that's the extent of the storyline: we simply watch Andy interact with his fellow prisoners and we also witness the effects that time has on him and his outlook on life. That's the storyline when you boil it down, but the film is more of a character study than anything else - a two-hour look at the lives of prisoners who are all "innocent" and who have but one thing to help them sleep at night: hope. Rounding out the cast is Red (Morgan Freeman), the man who can get you anything for a price and who also happens to be Andy's best friend, Heywood (William Sadler), a fellow prisoner with a slight speech impediment, the corrupt Warden Norton (Bob Gunton), and of course, the tough-as-nails Captain Hadley (Clancy Brown), a man who would just as soon put a prisoner in a wheelchair rather than ask him to quiet down.
Plot advancement hinges on some rather mundane events, but again, it's all in the characters and their interactions with one another. For example, major storyline arcs consist of events such as an elderly gentleman being granted parole, a young greaser attempting to get his GED, and of course, the lovely Rita Hayworth and the role that she plays in the grand scheme of things with but an old film and a ratty old poster to represent her. Did these sound like exciting plot devices in the script? Certainly not, but once you see them play out on your screen, you can't help but get wrapped up in the events as they take place. This is also where the "flawless" part of the above statement comes into play: even though the film runs for well over two hours and even though these twists sound rather trivial on paper, there is never a dull moment to be found... even when you find yourself sitting down to watch it for the thirtieth time.
This is largely due to the characters and the actors playing them, as you never really feel like you're simply watching a movie; these characters are so well-written and the performances turned in by the leading men are so great than viewers feel like they're locked away with these prisoners and simply watching life go by. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman have a natural chemistry together, and watching them play off of one another genuinely feels like you're watching two friends converse with one another. Clancy Brown is perfect as the asshole police captain, and in fact, the man was so good here that I just can't watch him in anything else without expecting him to break out that baton and start going to work on those who get in his way. The rest of the cast is just as good, even from the minor characters who only show up for a scene or two; again, this is a flawless film, and as such, there's not a single weak spot throughout the entire thing.
Much of the success of this film can be attributed to director Frank Darabont, a man who has a solid track record when it comes to adapting Stephen King's work (The Green Mile, anyone? The Mist?). As has been proven time and time again, it takes a talented filmmaker to properly adapt King's novels for the big screen, and this material was no exception; in the wrong hands, it could have been laughable or downright awful. Consider, if you will, the fact that this project was almost handed over to Rob Reiner, who would have cast Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise in the leading roles. Nothing against any of those three men, but does anyone truly believe that that would have been half as good as Darabont's adaptation?
Getting back to Darabont's work here, the man really captured the spirit of the source material and brought it to life for the big screen in a way that few adaptations - nay, few films in general - have been able to do. Great attention was paid to making sure that every little detail meant something in the grand scheme of things, and this coupled with the way that every character was fully developed and presented as a legit part of the story instead of just "that guy that sets this scene into motion" or "those extras who round out the cast" made almost each and every last scene of the film a classic.
So, yes, The Shawshank Redemption is a classic in every sense of the word. There is not one single flaw to be found throughout the entire affair, regardless of what criteria you judge it on or how high your standards have been set. The greatest film ever made? I'd hesitate to go that far (although I can't think of anything that tops it), but if it's not the best, it's damned sure in the top five. 10/10.
- added August 14, 2008 at 1:31am
Frank Darabont is the master of King adaptations.
Not a single thing wrong with this movie, or the
story for that matter. 10/10
The Red Clover
- added August 14, 2008 at 9:18am
Agreed, Frank Darabont is beyond fantastic and
while "The Green Mile" remains my
favorite this movie nothing short of ideal when it
comes to King adaptations. The casting was superb
and the acting was excellent. Everything you could
ever hope for in a movie and more. 10/10
- added August 14, 2008 at 9:32am
Morgan Freeman's speech towards to the end is just
amazing and heartfelt. Great acting, story,
cinematography, and score/soundtrack. 10/10
- added August 16, 2008 at 2:18am
It's definative. This is one of the greatest
movies ever made. Not a minute wasted, not a
charecter un-touched. It covered every angle...
hard to imagine King actually wrote the short this
is based on.
- added May 10, 2009 at 1:07pm
- added January 10, 2010 at 7:37am
my second best after schindler's list...great
- added September 17, 2010 at 4:02pm
I forgot how much I enjoyed this movie. I can't
stand Tim Robbins in certain movies, but he did
such an amazing job on here as did Morgan Freeman.