THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994) C widescreen 142m dir: Frank Darabont
w/Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown, Gil Bellows, Mark Rolston, James Whitmore, Jeffrey DeMunn, Larry Brandenburg
From Variety's contemporary review of the film: "There's a painstaking exactness to The Shawshank Redemption that is both laudable and exhausting. The 19 years that the film's protagonist spends behind prison walls is a term shared by the audience. It's vivid, grueling and painful, and passes with the appropriate tedium and sudden bursts of horror that one imagines reflect the true nature of incarceration.
"The saga begins in 1947, when bank vice president Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) goes on trial for the murder of his wife and her lover. Circumstantial evidence proves enough to land him in Shawshank Prison with two concurrent life sentences.
"While it's unquestionably Andy's story, the chronicle is related in voice over by 'Red' (Morgan Freeman), a lifer who's set himself up as someone who can get 'things' from the outside. He marvels at the new man's tenacity, knowing intrinsically that Andy is different and that he likes him, quirks and all.
"Soon Andy is put to work in all manner of financial activity. He is Warden Norton's (Bob Gunton) crown jewel and the source of both an enhanced public image for the man and a quietly acquired personal fortune. But the warden cannot afford to have Andy paroled. The man knows too much, and he is too valuable an asset.
"Writer/director Frank Darabont adapts his source material [Stephen King's short novel] with sly acuity. It's a fiendishly clever construct in which seemingly oblique words or incidents prove to have fierce resonance. Central to the film's success is a riveting, unfussy performance from Robbins. Freeman has the showier role, allowing him a grace and dignity that come naturally."
From the San Francisco Chronicle 26 September 2019, this article about the film by Zaki Hasan: "25 years after its release, Shawshank Redemption reminds us that good things never die":
"'Hope is a good thing. Maybe even the best of things. And good things never die.'
"It’s a piece of wisdom dished out by prisoner Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) to fellow inmate Ellis 'Red' Redding (Morgan Freeman) during the course of the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption, and while it’s a neat summation of the film’s central thesis, it could also just as easily serve as a description of the film’s fate following its release.
"You see, Shawshank is the Stephen King adaptation with the famously unwieldy title that famously flopped upon its initial release before famously becoming the revered classic it is today. And with the prison epic marking its 25th anniversary in September, it’s worth taking a look back at the saga of Andy Dufresne — the one truly innocent man in Shawshank Prison.
"The story’s premise is simple enough: Dufresne is convicted of murdering his wife and her lover in 1947 and sentenced to consecutive life sentences in the hellish Shawshank facility. There, he makes the acquaintance of Red. (Andy: 'I understand you’re a man who knows how to get things.' Red: 'I’m known to locate certain things from time to time.' This is the prison-movie version of a 'meet cute.')
"What follows is cinematic alchemy of a kind that’s all too rare, propelled by a supremely talented cast, a sumptuous score by Thomas Newman and a first-rate script and direction from first-timer Frank Darabont, who had the not-insurmountable task of taking King’s skinny novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (Darabont purchased the rights for the King-ly sum of $1) and expanding it to a nearly 2½-hour canvas.
"While Rob Reiner, who found considerable success helming prior King adaptations Stand by Me and Misery, had hoped to direct (try to picture Reiner’s choice of Tom Cruise in the Dufresne role), it was Darabont’s vision — with its poignant insights into the nature of institutionalization and imprisonment — that ultimately won out.
"In fact, one of the most memorable scenes in the film originated entirely with Darabont and comes when Dufresne, who has managed to ingratiate himself with the prison’s guards and warden enough to have a certain amount of freedom within its facilities, locks himself inside the warden’s office and plays a portion of Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro over the PA system, listening with eyes closed and a look of pure bliss stretching across his face.
"In that instant, he’s free. The calm that descends over the prison lasts only for a brief moment, but it’s magnificently captured by Darabont’s sweeping camera as the inmates listen intently to music that many don’t even understand. And the significance of that moment is substantial. Even as Andy is thrown into solitary confinement, he has already proved prison isn’t so much concrete walls as it is a state of mind.
"This act of protest marks Dufresne as a disrupter not unlike another iconic inmate, Jack Nicholson’s McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Unlike Cuckoo’s Nest, however, Shawshank's beating heart is the friendship between Red and Andy, one of the greatest in movie history and a career high-water mark for both Robbins and Freeman. We get to see their bond form and thrive during two decades of story time in a way that feels especially meaningful by the time the credits roll.
"There’s also a clever bit of fast-footed storytelling legerdemain at play throughout The Shawshank Redemption, as we find ourselves so drawn in by the unfolding character drama and the byplay between the various prisoners that we forget we’re watching a prison movie that must — almost by definition — culminate in some kind of escape scheme. It’s a testament to Darabont’s construction that those moments lose none of their impact even after countless viewings.
"Upon its initial release, The Shawshank Redemption failed to recoup even its $25 million budget, topping out domestically at a relatively piddly $16 million. But just as Andy drives home to Red, good things never die. And 25 years later, the film’s ill-fated theatrical release is a distant flicker of memory, while its insights into the human experience continue to find audiences ready to embrace it as one of the greatest movies of all time.
"As redemptions go, it’s a pretty good one.
"The Shawshank Redemption can be watched on several streaming services, including Amazon Prime."
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION was nominated for seven Oscars: Best Picture, Actor (Freeman), Adapted Screenplay (Darabont), Cinematography (Roger Deakins), Editing (Richard Francis-Bruce), Original Score (Thomas Newman), and Sound (Robert J. Litt, Elliot Tyson, Michael Herbick, Willie Burton).