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Movie Reviews: The Shawshank Redemption
Though you're probably tired of people saying it, The Shawshank Redemption is a timeless tale of friendship, perseverance, and above all, hope.
Title: The Shawshank Redemption
Production: Castle Rock Entertainment
Director: Frank Darabont
Runtime: 142 minutes
Age Rating: 17+ (strong language, mild violence, dark or disturbing thematic elements)
Summary: Andy Dufresne is a man who seems to have it all: a well-paying job at a New England bank, a nice car, and a beautiful wife--a beautiful wife who eventually cheats on him for another man. Andy learns of their affair and shows up in the driveway with a flask of whiskey and a loaded revolver. Some time later, Andy appears in court for the murder of his wife and her lover. With an ill-fated plea of not guilty swiftly trounced by the jury, Andy is sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in Maine's Shawshank prison. It is there that Andy must learn to cope with prison life and the dangers it carries until he proves his innocence or dies trying.
The Good: Diverse cast of believable characters; top-tier direction; the ending
The Bad: May move a little too slowly for some
The Ugly: Heywood's attempt at reading
1994 was a legendary year for films, it seems. Not only did we get Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction, but we also got my favorite film of all time: this massive beast of a film. Now, this being my first movie review, I will preface this by saying that my movie reviews won't usually be as long as my anime reviews (seeing as how anime and TV series are just a tad bit longer than movies are). With that said, let's get right to it.
The Shawshank Redemption is based on "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption," a novella published by Stephen King in 1982's Different Seasons, and was Frank Darabont's directorial debut...though you'd never be able to tell, what with how masterfully this film is directed and shot and acted. Darabont's adaptation of King's novella is nothing short of masterful and poignant, with the underlying themes of hope and redemption always present. Even when it seems like all hope is gone, you always feel that it's still there somewhere, even if it can't be seen, and you know a film's doing something right when that feeling hits you.
While Shawshank does everything almost perfectly, I'd say the standout aspect is the characters--namely, the actors' portrayal of the characters. The film gives us a peerless look at the friendship between two people through nearly 20 years of prison life, and we believe every single second of it; Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman are both great actors, the latter possibly being one of the best alive, and The Shawshank Redemption is the film that they both give their best performances in their entire career. The side characters are nothing to sneeze at, either: from the hypocritical "Christian" Warden Norton played by Bob Gunton, to the ruthless guard captain Byron Hadley masterfully played by Clancy Brown, every role is given an incredible amount of life and energy that puts most other films to shame. It's no surprise that these characters have all become icons in our pop culture.
If there were any single aspect to the movie that comes close to matching the brilliance of its characters, it would have to be the ending. The way it's handled is yet another example of Darabont's adaptive skills as well as the sheer skill and dedication required by the entire crew to pull it off. I won't dare give away how it all ends, but you will immediately recognize every single time it's been emulated and referenced by other films and by TV--it is just that good.
Now, if I had to arbitrarily assign a flaw to this film, the only thing I can think of is that people who are more used to the fast-paced films of today may grow restless with Shawshank's deliberately slow pace and quiet tone. Know in advance that this is not a fast-paced movie by any stretch of the imagination, and be prepared for a lot of introspective scenes.
And with that, I conclude my brief thoughts on my favorite movie of all time. Never before has a film moved me as much as The Shawshank Redemption has, and never before have I seen a film that left me absolutely speechless as it ended until this one. There is absolutely no one that I wouldn't recommend this film to...except maybe my enemies. They don't deserve to have such nice things.
Final Score: 10 out of 10. The Shawshank Redemption is a masterful look at what it means to have hope and be free delivered by an astounding cast and a debuting director who has clearly directed in a previous life.