Film Nerd’s Choice: The Shawshank Redemption
Director: Frank Darabont
Cast: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, Gil Bellows
Synopsis: Andy Dufresne is convicted of the murder of his wife and her lover and sentenced to life imprisonment at Shawshank prison. He insists throughout the film that he is innocent. Despite a rough start, particularly concerning his treatment from other inmates, he starts spreading a very dangerous message… one of hope. Based on a story written by Stephen King.
As I sit down to write this, I looked at the IMDB entry for this film and was delighted to see that it currently is the top rated film on the entire site. For me there is little wonder as to why this is so. This is the King adaptation for which Darabont will be best remembered (despite a strong film being made in that collaboration for The Green Mile). Though I would not claim that this is necessarily a feel good movie… some of the drama is a bit too hard-edged for that definition… it is perhaps the most inspirational film I have ever seen.
Andy Dufresne is a very interesting character, and far from the typical lead role type. He flatly denies his guilt despite evidence mounted against him. He is often dour, and very quietly spoken. Despite these apparent setbacks, traits that make him a target on the inside, he proves himself a fiercely intelligent man. It is this element of his personality that not only wins him the respect of fellow inmates, but crucially also the respect of the guards and warden. It is these connections that allow him a certain level of liberty, yet no one can guess to what ends he will take these freedoms.
The other significant lead character is Freeman’s “Red”. The character in the novel was a red-headed Irishman, so there was originally some question as to the casting of clearly not Irish Freeman. His performance, as is often the case, is enough to silence any critic. He is our narrator for the events on-screen. He is a well-chosen narrator, as he is close to Dufresne, and yet is unable to grasp all his motives until the final glorious minutes of the film. He is also apt as a narrator, as a man who has been in prison since his youth, he is world-weary and wise to the system, able to give the audience a peek at the psychology of such men. This is also crucial to his own character’s story arc as well.
For a film that has such recognition, I still feel it is criminally under-seen. Many a friend and colleague have I mentioned this film to and heard “I have been meaning to see that”, or, even worse, a blank stare. This is a film to make grown men cry and cheer in equal measure. There is something in it for everyone, being a film that narrows down what truly is important in life. It raises the question to those of us who consider ourselves free, do we truly appreciate what we have??
5 stars out of 5