The Shawshank Redemption – Review

by Bret W.

This review was written in 2000.

You know, I love this movie. It’s certainly one of Erin’s top ten for a reason. But I mean, come on! Why does TBS have to play it every other day??? They really know how to kill a movie.

OK, this is a terrific film based on a story by Stephen King. We all know how well he writes, and how tremendous the stories are. And to me, having a good story is more than half the battle for a quality film. The story is the key element, with fine acting, great direction, a visionary cinematographer’s eye coupled with a sweeping orchestral score, and a halfway decent sized budget lending the rest, in that order. At least, that’s my opinion.

Shawshank Redemption has all of this, which makes it one of the finest films ever made. The story is like this, for those of you who haven’t seen it: a banker named Andy Dufresne is framed for the murder of his wife and is sent to do hard time at Shawshank prison in Maine. There he lives for nineteen years, where he undergoes a sort of spiritual transformation guided by his contacts with fellow prisoners, his exploitation of the system inside, and his intimate connection with the corruption found within the stone walls. Where Andy experiences his redemption is from within, because although he didn’t kill his wife directly, he blames himself for her death in every other way, for the man he had become was so deplorable that he drove her into the arms of another man. But as Andy leaves Shawshank of his own recognizance, his spirit is renewed in the knowledge that his past is his past, and his strength lies in the future he can start building today.

At least, that’s kind of how I saw it. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman give stellar performances, and I just love Clancy Brown as the hard-hearted Captain Hadley. I’m a big fan of Clancy Brown; I’ve liked him since the first prison film I saw him in (1983’s Bad Boys), when he was on the opposite side of the bars.

Anyway, Shawshank Redemption is the kind of film that pulls you in and leaves you in wonder at the end, and you wonder how you didn’t see that ending coming, which in my book makes for an excellent story also. I like the unpredictable. But more than one great story, it’s a string of great stories that all tie together, like a patchwork quilt, each panel its own entity and lending itself to the beauty of the total finished product. Shawshank Redemption is such a film, and I could watch it over and over.

Which is what TBS would have me do, apparently.