on June 11, 2003
It has long been my contention that it is the moviemaker's task to hold the viewer's attention, not to burden him with his self-indulgent, difficult-to-follow symbolisms.
That having been said, I find it difficult to find another movie I would recommend more highly than The Shawshank Redemption. Without any high-adrenaline action sequences or steamy sex scenes (two sure-fire ways to get the vewer's attention), this film somehow has the power to make you sit through all 142 minutes without for a moment getting bored. And I challenge anyone who has seen it to delete any scene, even any minute, from the final edit. The fact is, you can't. Because every single scene is an essential element that contributes to the final result: a masterpiece that captures the drama of enduring friendship and resiliency of the human spirit more powerfully than any other film ever made. Even those who normally do not watch movies with a critical eye will find themselves so drawn into this experience. I really can't say enough about this film. Suffice it to say that this is certainly the Greatest Movie Not to Win an Oscar. (Since Citizen Kane, at least. )
Actually, I can forgive the Film Academy for not honoring this film with the Oscars I firmly believe it deserved. But when the American Film Institute in 1998 put together their list of The 100 Greatest Movies of all time (covering the period from 1896-1996), and so myopically overlooked Shawshank in favor of such titles as Rocky, Dr. Strangelove, Network, and Jaws, well, I thought that was absolutely ridiculous.
I wouldn't hesitate to put it in the top five of all time.
on October 26, 2000
Every so often, a certain type of movie comes along that deeply moves anyone who watches it. This movie is grand in scope and scale, its character portrayals so moving and so real, that you cannot help becoming completely engrossed by it. I believe that the Shawshank Redemption is one of these movies. Often times, movies based on books are sub par, with the common complaint being, "The book is better." Well I, for one, have read the book and watched the movie, and I assure you that the movie is not a let down at all, but rather a triumph of modern cinema. The DVD disc itself is a little thin on features, but at an average price of about $15, anyone with a DVD player and a taste for Drama(or anyone who simply likes excellent movies) should own this movie on DVD. Now, on to the movie itself. The Shawshank Redemption saw career-defining performances from many of its cast members,including Tim Robbins, who became a top star after his incredible performance, and Morgan Freeman, who added to his already impressive list of accolades with his perfect supporting role. Robbins plays Andy Dufresne, a Maine banker who is unjustly convicted of killing his wife and her lover after he discovers that she is having an affair. Andy is a true outsider in the bleak world of Shawshank prison, an educated man not used to violence and despair that are an everyday part of prison life. Robbins plays this part to perfection, showing emotional vulnerability, as well as the stregnth to overcome the greatest adversity. Freeman plays Red, "The man who can get it all," a prisoner serving a life sentence for murder, who befriends Andy. Red adapts to his life in prison by becoming a source for bringing outside goods to prisoners. The interplay between Robbins and Freeman is one of the highlights of the movie, as these two wonderful actors test each other's limits. James Whitmore plays Brooks Hatlin, a man who spends his entire life in Shawshank as a librarian. Once released,as an old man, Brooks finds that he would rather die that live another day in a unfamiliar world. His character is a tragic example of how the human mind can become so attached to its circumstances(even the blak setting of a prison) that it simply cannot let go of them. Bob Gunton takes a memorable turn as Bible-quoting Warden Samuel Norton, whose facade of morality is merely a mask for his depraved behavior and illegal activites. Frank Darabont, who wrote the screenplay and directed this movie,is a master of skilfully portraying human emotions. He deserves all the credit he gets for helping to shape this memorable movie experience. Stepen King's brilliance shines through, as his ability to create complex and memorable characters is evident in this movie. The bottom line is this: The Shawshank Redemption is a monumental achievement in motion picture history. It is defined by a memorable story, engrossing character performances, and one of the most truly gratifying endings I have ever seen in a movie. This is truly one of the greatest movies ever made.
on December 22, 1999
Every so often in everyone's life, they walk out of a movie that they consider perfect. A movie where you don't sit through it and think to yourself how you might have done it all differently had you been the director. I have a couple of movies like that, and "The Shawshank Redemption" is one of them. I still remember clearly walking out of the theater in 1994 and thinking that I've just seen one of the best movies that I'll ever have the pleasure of sitting through. A movie so elegant and emotional that is perfect in its way of storytelling. A movie that is about how hope can never die. The movie earned several Academy Award nominations that were certainly well-deserved, but it left theaters all too quickly. Over the years though, it has gained a strong cult following.
The movie stars Tim Robbins in one of his very best performances as Andrew Dufresne, a quiet man who is convicted of the murder of his wife and is sent to Shawshank prison. It's there he meets "Red", a convict played by Morgan Freeman who gets things from the outside for a price. He first sees Andy as he's lead into the prison and predicts that he won't last long inside the prison walls. Over time though, he's suprised that the young man is able to survive and soon, the two become friends with respect for each other. Andy is not a man who "fights the system". He spends his days in his own quiet world, a courage that the other prisoners don't quite understand at first. Robbins has built this character in a way that we the performance is not showy, but subtle. The result is that we want to know more and when we do begin to understand his ways, that only makes us want him to succeed that much more. I won't go into much more in the way of detail about the movie; if you haven't seen it, I don't want to ruin any of the enjoyment of the movie; if you have, I'm sure you already have your feelings about the movie. This is a movie that's not depressing; it has a lot of life to it and I think that when they look back at the 90's, they will see that this is one of the best pictures that was released during this time.
Yes, Warner Brothers has proven to made an error in judgement about their way of going about putting this DVD out. There was an announcement over a year ago, I believe; then previous announcements came later after the first delay promising a director's commentary, then a Morgan Freeman commentary, then, in the final moments before the DVD is released this week...nothing. It's a shame, as "Shawshank" is a film deserving of much more. I suppose part of me is happy with the fact that this film is finally on DVD, although if this is the final product, there is no reason in my mind that this couldn't have been released a long, is an excellent looking image. One of the best cinematographers in the business (Roger Deakins- "Fargo") did the filming on this picture and the pale colors are represented well throughout the picture, mainly browns and greys. Like the movie, there is an elegance to the visual style on this picture that is apparent in every movie that Deakins has worked on. Images are clear and crisp throughout; sharp, but not overly sharp for a "smooth" feeling that looks very film-like.
There are few problems, and none of them are terribly distracting at all. There is a slight shimmering in a scene or two and some very small instances of grain. Other than that, this is an excellent looking image that will certainly beautiful sound mix. It's also a newly remastered 5.1 mix. It's not flashy or showy, nor does it need to be. It does however, do what it needs to do best very well. The score by Thomas Newman is absolutely wonderful and it sounds clear and crisp throughout the picture. Surrounds are put into use occasionally, but always in a subtle way that is right for the picture. What I was pleased about most though, was how rich and clean the score sounded on this DVD. Dialogue is clear and without problems as well. Again, Non-animated main menus that have the score playing in the dissapointment of this DVD; all that's included is the trailer and some production stills.
Final Thoughts Although it's unfortunate that this isn't the special edition that it should have been it is a must for any collection. I'm happy the film is finally being realized by more and more people as a classic piece of filmmaking, which I've always considered it to be.
on March 23, 2002
First off, this reviewer regularly rates this movie as his personal favourite of all time. Why only four stars then? Because we are asked to rate the DVD, not the movie, and the criminal lack of DVD extras for one of the best films ever made is shameful. So, film five stars, DVD three - averaging out at 4. Maths lesson over, on with the review.
Based on the Stephen King novella ' Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption ' this really has become a modern day classic. Other films have grossed more, and may have a more immediate following, but Shawshank will endure for years, and become another 'Casablanca ' loved by generations to come.
The film tells the story of Andy Dufresne, sent to the maximum security prison of Shawshank for the murder of his wife and her lover. Played with an under-stated intelligence by Tim Robbins in a career defining turn, and supported by sterling performances from Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown, and veteran James Whitmore. Morgan Freeman's work is particularly notable, not just for his performance ( let's face it, the man doesn't know how to give a bad one! ) but also for the fact that his is the voice of the film. His chocolate-rich tones were director Frank Darabont's choice for the voice-over of the film, as if his character Red is talking to us, and explaining the sub-text of the film. Voice overs often dont work ( Blade Runner being a prime example ) but this one does, perfectly.
Beginning at a slow pace, the film begins with the brutal de-humanising regime meted out to the 'Fresh Fish' as they begin their incarcaration in Shawshank. I remember suggesting my wife watch the film after I'd seen it, and she, being of a considerably more sensitive nature than me, found the early scenes difficult. If you too find the opening 45 minutes a tad heavy going, stick with it - the reward is worth it.
Eventually as we progress through the film, we see how Red's initial suspicion of Andy becomes a deep respect, and eventually a deep friendship, indeed it would be true to say that these two men love each other like brothers by the end. There are a few key scenes that really stick in the memory - the rooftop scene, the opera aria scene, the exam result scene - all of which enable us to begin to like these men, men we probably wouldn't have wanted in our homes before the film, but who we'd happily sit down to dinner with after.
The film's true emotional impact of course comes in the final third as we learn the truth about Andy's guilt or otherwise. True to many of King's works, there is a twist in the end which leaves us all stunned, and with a big stupid grin on our faces. The total and utter defeat of the dark forces in the film is accomplished with such applomb that you find yourself rooting for the bad guys - the prisoners, a bunch of murderers and misfits that two hours earlier you were deeply suspicious of. Indeed the last section of the film plays almost totally without our hero, and remains almost my favourite portion of it. By this time we are crying out for the final fulfilment of our hopes for the characters. It is to Frank Darabont's eternal credit that he accomplishes this in a scene without dialogue, and a sweeping panoramic withdrawl from the characters, leaving us with not a dry eye in the house, and a feel-good glow that lasts for days.
... while in [a local store] I noticed this man and wife trying to decide which DVD they would buy to view that evening. I pointed to Shawshank. "Ever seen this one?"
"Trust me" I said, "It's the best movie you've never seen." He bought it, and I like to think I made that man and wife cry, laugh and smile that evening.
To conclude, Warner Bros and Castle Rock - SHAME ON YOU! This movie deserves better. The Region 2 version rocks, so get busy, re-package, and give us fans the extras this classic deserves!
P.S. The ten-year anniversary edition has righted many wrongs. The film has finally been done justice. I watched it again the other night, and again my eyes welled up at the end. Either I am a wus, or I'm right, or maybe both! Yeah, both!
on July 13, 2000
The Shawshank Redemption is by far, one of the greatest movies of all time. It is ultimate story of how hope truly never dies, and how good things finally happen to good people.
Tim Robbins, in his finest acting job to date, plays the wrongly convicted Andrew Dufresne. He is sent to Shawshank Prison for killing his wife and her lover, and there he meets Red, played by the ever talented (and one of the best voice-over voices of all time) Morgan Freeman. The chemistry between the two is so amazing throughout the entire movie, and you can clearly see it flow.
You really begin to feel for Andy and his quiet demeanor peppered with subtle emotions. Just when you think the movie is going a certain way, the plot takes an incredible turn that leaves you sitting there with your mouth open. From this point, just when you think the film is heading towards its almost certain climax, it twists another way, leaving you sitting there, not being able to control your giddy smile.
The film is wonderfully written, and the actors were superb. It has a beautiful flow to it, and you can't help but enjoy the masterpiece that you are viewing. You will definately be pleasantly satisfied. This film is an excellent addition to anyone's video collection.
on July 16, 2005
The box office was cruel to this film. Whether it was the lack of a catchy title, or the rather bland movie poster showing Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, the true spirit of this film never got the attention it deserved at it's big-screen opening. For this, I'm guilty, too. I showed no interest in it when it opened. Never have I been so wrong in judging a movie. The motion picture awards institutions were wrong in not properly recognizing this film as possibly the greatest of all time. I never expected a prison film to be my all-time favorite.
It was two precious years before my brother convinced me to see it. I must say, no film has ever driven me to tears like this one did. It is a compelling story of the strength of human character, emerging from the most hopeless of situations. As it turns out, hope is exactly what empowers the prisoners of Shawshank.
(Spoiler ahead!) The cinematography and musical score are magical, especially in the scene where Red is dropped off in Buxton to search the fields for Andy's stash, and where he finally reunites with Andy in Mexico. It just streams with emotion. The script: superbly written. All this was put together by a talented director who can go to his grave knowing he orchestrated one of the finest films in history. Of course, Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown and other supporting cast members deserve much credit for the emotion they put into their respective characters.
If you are one of the unfortunate people who haven't seen this film, you're missing out, big time. I envy those who are watching it for the first time. It is so completely engrossing a story, never boring, with a truely satisfying ending. It exudes hope. It defines redemption.
on June 18, 2006
I saw the shawshank redmeption when I was around twelve. it was long, boring, and I didn't relate to it at all. Six years later I was at a local store feeling depressed after sevral bad things had happened in my life when I saw The Shawshank Redmeption tennth anivarsary DVD. My best friend has always said it was his favorite movie and I don't know why but I just decided to buy this thing. I went home and popped it in and two hours and twenty minutes later I was shocked that this movie had been around for ten years and I hadn't seen it in this way before.
The Shawshank redmeption is more about long term friendship then it is about a guy in a prison. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman are fantastic as Andy Dufrane and Red. The film goes on for a good two hours without seeming dull and there's great character devlopment. The prison break scene has always stayed in my mind and the score to the film is magnificent and I haven't heard a better one to this date. The last twenty minutes or so of Red's life outside the prison is wonderful. there's no bad part of this movie in my opinion. This film went larlgy unnoticed and even though it was nominated for 7 academy awards it won none. I strongly suggest that if you haven't seen this movie, please see it. It has a history of getting people through tough times (It got me through some troubling times) but even when you're not down it's a wonderful film and I can't honestly say I've seen a better movie.
Ok, that was the film itself, but this is the ten year edition. I must say that the special's are not anything to get excited about. There's two documentaries. One on the themes and why so many people love this movie after it went to home video, and another on the acutal making of the film. There's a director's commentary on the film in which Frank gives us very good insight to the film, and there's a parody movie "The Shark Tank redemption" starring Morgan Freeman's son (Who also made a cameo in Shawshank redemption) and the interview between Charlie Rose, Frank, Morgan Freeman, and Tim Robbins. You'd think there would be more for ten years, but there isn't. Really, you're getting this film for the movie but if you already have the film it's probably best to just stick to that although the two documentaries are nice, it's probably not worth the money.
on January 20, 2006
The first of the umpty-billion times I've enjoyed this movie, I wasn't surprised by the outcome, because I'd read the book. I was, however, simply amazed at how phenomenal the onscreen version was...better than ANY book I've read. It is the only movie I've faithfully watched at least three times a year.
If you're usually a renter and can only own one movie, make this the one. It's that good, yet each time I watch it I find some new detail I'd missed previously. I gain new insight each time; I feel that I will continue to come away more enlightened on each viewing. You will never grow bored of this movie, and you will never forget it.
I think, this week, my favorite line takes place when Andy Dufresne's cell is "tossed" and the warden nearly forgets to return Andy's Bible. SALVATION LIES WITHIN. Indeed it does.
An aside...I had the privilege to tour the defunct Ohio prison where the movie was made. It's so HAUNTED by real souls who resided there, and seeing it just gave me the shivers. I could easily pick out where certain scenes had taken place and almost HEARD the warden's footfalls in the corridors. It's hard to explain better than that...just an amazing experience.
Run, do NOT walk to the Buy It Now icon!
on February 24, 2000
One word can sum this movie up, "Wow!". But I've never been known to keep things short. I was lucky enough to see this movie in the theaters (thanks to an ingenious method of sneaking in which I will never disclose) and remember that I didn't want it to end. I can't think of another movie that has touched me so deeply. Lessons of friendship and injustice, of dignity and the power of the human will. DO NOT listen to what critic Leonard Maltin says about this movie being "overlong" and "hollow and predictable". He is under no uncertain terms nothing more than an idiot or what the British would call a "wanker". The length of the film is necessary, the story is nothing short of magic. The novella from which this is based gives all the more credence to the idea that Stephen King will one day emerge from under his undue shroud of literary cynicism as one of the 20th century's greatest writers. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman give possibly the best performances of each of their distinguished careers. If you can handle harsh dramas and depictions of prison life then I suggest checking this movie out, putting aside any pre-conceived notions, and enjoying this timeless classic film. And when you're done go buy the movie so you don't wear out your local videostore's copies!
on December 12, 1999
The Shawshank Redemption is a character study in which the audience can develop a healthy and well-earned respect for a man whose spirit will not be crushed. We get to know these people, and writer and first-time director Frank Darabont is able to make us care for them in a way that makes the relatively slow pace of the film more than bearable. Shawshank transcends its genre much the way Cool Hand Luke did all those years ago, but while Paul Newman's Luke was a smiling, hardened con, with a longing for escape, Robbins, in a superb performance, makes Andy's intellect and imagination his salvation. It's a beautiful film that is able to portray the power of hope through the eyes of a rich and rewarding character. A man brutalized but not beaten by a corrupt system.