Movie Review: The Shawshank Redemption

September 18, 2007

(Spoiler Alert! plot/story outline given away)

Sometimes you come across a movie that is really good, slow, but good. The Shawshank Redemption is an adaption of the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King. The movie was an excellent example of story-telling, and was a movie that delineated that hope never dies. It had great performances by Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, and the interactions between them was made the storyline such an elegant one. The movie did not set the box office on fire, but over the years, the direction and the storytelling has developed a cult following for this movie that has only made it grow in popularity and a strong following in the DVD market. One criticism of this movie has been the length of the movie (142 minutes), but even for that, the pace at which the story has been developed and presented seems just right. Many critics have nominated this movie to be among the list of top best movies of all time.

The Shawshank RedemptionThe movie essentially has 2 strong characters, with Tim Robbins playing the role of 'Andy Dufresne' and Morgan Freeman as 'Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding'. Tim Robbins plays the role of a banker whose wife and lover was killed and he is convicted on the basis of circumstantial evidence even while professing his innocence. He is sentenced to 2 consecutive life sentences in the notorious (and harsh) Shawshank prison in Maine. His introduction to prison life is unsettling, with getting a de-lousing and strong speeches from the Warden Samuel Norton and Chief Prison Guard Captain Byron Hadley. He also witnesses a prisoner breaking down and causing a major disturbance, leading to Captain Hadley beating the prisoner brutally (and the prisoner dying from these wounds later).

In the meantime, Red has been denied parole by the parole board, and in the prison yard, watches the arrival of new prisoners including Tim. Andy slowly develops friends in the prison and eventually becomes friends with Red himself, and Red has a reputation for being able to get things inside the prison. Andy asks for and gets a rock hammer, to be able to pursue him hobby of rock collecting. Andy is assigned to the prison laundry, and in one of the seamier sides of the prison, he is continually harassed by a group of inmates known as 'The Sisters'. They regularly harass and rape him.

Then Andy's luck changes, with Captain Hadley getting to know about his financial skills, and he wants Andy to setup a tax shelter for him. He starts to get some preferential treatment and gets assigned to a lighter service of the prison library. Andy's fame as a financial help spreads and he is now advising a number of other prisoners, guards and even the Warden. He is also allowed to setup his own team, and he selects Red to be on the team. In a reminder of the painful life of a ex-con, an old prisoner who has been granted parole (but has been in jail for so long that he no longer recognizes life outside the prison) has major difficulties in adjusting to life outside the prison, and eventually commits suicide.

The changed fortune of Andy is much clearer now when he is again assaulted by 'The Sisters', but now the others beat up these leader of this group so badly that Andy is never threatened again. Things keep on progressing, and the Warden now has Andy to setup a new identity so that the Warden can benefit from the work that he is making the prisoners do. Things change when a new prisoner, Tommy joins and mentions that he knows of facts that would prove that Andy was innocent. The Warden is fearful of Andy getting out and revealing his financial planning, and shows his truly evil nature. He gets Captain Hadley to kill Tommy and pushes Andy into solitary confinement for 2 months, at the end of which Andy emerges a seemingly broken man.

This is where the story finally gets revealed. Andy vanishes, having escaped from the prison after digging a tunnel for 19 years. He takes the identity of the man he had created for the warden, and gets the Warden and Captain implicated for their scam He eventually goes to Mexico where Red joins him once he is freed on parole.

Hi, I write about the entertainment market in India, concentrating on the Hindi language programmes on TV, and on the Indian movie market, Bollywood. I am also interested in research on Cancer (because of a friend), and try to keep on reading more on this.
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September 18, 2007
01:39 PM


had seen shawshank long time ago and you are right it is a cult favourite...will see it again shortly

September 19, 2007
01:19 AM

Though the movie is one of the all time classics, I do not think your review does justice to the movie. You have simply narrated the story here :)

Naveen Roy
September 19, 2007
03:19 AM

Ouch!!!!!! An awesome movie, true! But you've given away the whole story there!!

September 19, 2007
04:35 AM

Oh yeah...and the girl in The Crying Game was really a dude :-)

Shawshank is one of my favorites and it's hard to imagine that Stephen King could write something so nuanced and sensitive and such a departure from his usual idyllic small town with scary things a-knockin' about underneath style.

But, I do think you spoiled this for anyone who might have wanted to watch the movie. The escape was a big part of the mystery and was really important to the plot, as was the poster and the hammer. Seemingly unimportant things that culminate into something important at the end of the movie.

September 19, 2007
10:57 PM

Shawshank is arguably one of the best adaptations (A Streetcar Named Desire is probably the best, argue the intelligentsia). I would prefer it to King's Carrie any day of the week and twice on a sunday. Though the suspense of the ending is compromised by the author, it is still a great watch. I have watched it 3 times, but, I am game for another viewing. What the hell, a rainy day, a bag of popcorn and a Godfather or Kramer vs. Kramer or Few Good Men or Untouchables or Rainman or Fools Rush In (and last but no way the least) or Shawshank..., I'm in...

September 20, 2007
06:41 AM

one cannot forget the two arias from Figaro.

September 20, 2007
08:37 AM

Can we ask DC editors that if some review or write-up (book or movie) gives away the ending, that a Spoiler Alert, be posted to warn those who want to be surprised?

September 20, 2007
09:03 AM

will do:)

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