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The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

January 29, 2010

10/10 Rock Hounds

It’s in the Top Five. Shocker, I know.

The Shawshank Redemption is about a man in the 1940s who gets sent to prison with a life sentence after being convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. He settles in, makes friends with a guy named Red and spends the rest of his days in the big house getting busy living instead of getting busy dying.

Look, if you’ve never seen this movie, stop reading now and go watch it, what the hell have you been doing with yourself all this time? This is one of those universally admired movies that rarely comes around and 11 times out of 10 makes on impact on its viewers in some shape or form. Really, go ask anybody their thoughts on this one, anyone. Even better, pull your face away from the screen, yell “Shawshank!” up in the air and get ready to tally how many people race over to your cubicle/living room/toilet stall to talk about how hard this movie rocks.

I remember the first time I saw this movie was after asking my dad if people can make friends in prison (I was younger then). Anywho, TBS loved playing this sucker on a 24 hour loop back in the day and it wasn’t long thereafter that I sat down with my dad and watched it straight through. Shook me to the core back then and the sentiment hasn’t yielded in the countless viewings since. That doesn’t happen very often in movies, maybe it does for one or two scenes in a movie, but hardly ever when it comes to the whole damn thing.

With that being said, there’s no one thing that this movie does right. It’s the entire package that brings it all together and if the 10 out of 10 wasn’t indication enough, one might argue this gem as flawless, and that one fella’ might be me. Something tells me I’m not the minority in this line of thought either.

Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman were already established by the time this little ditty came around, but damn if Andy Dufresne and Red aren’t the best roles of their career; might not be the pinnacle of their acting abilities, but the characters themselves could definitely be argued. Robbins make it easy to see why all the other prisoners more or less live vicariously through Andy, and Red serves as the perfect narrator for an audience looking from the outside-in. They’re both great in their own rights, but the friendship between them is what ties everything together and brings the movie’s message of hope full circle in a setting where hope lost. Just a great relationship to sit back and watch as it blossoms into something everyone strives for in life – true friendship.

But I think a lot of the credit as to why this movie is borderline perfect is owed to writer/director Frank Darabont. Folks, this was Darabont’s first big time motion picture. Let me repeat that. Frank Darabont’s debut effort as a film maker was THE. SHAWSHANK. REDEMPTION. If I were him, I might have just up and quit while I was ahead, but since we have him to thank for The Green Mile as well, he has free reign to do whatever the hell he wants regardless of how bad The Majestic and The Mist were (at least that’s what I heard).

One of the best aspects of Shawshank is not only the phenomenal array of genuinely good and straight-up evil characters who are all just as memorable as the next (major shout-out to Bob Gunton as Warden Norton and Clancy Brown as Captain Hadley – some seriously mean mofos), but also all the great stuff that comes out of their mouths. The dialogue here is really out of sight from start to finish and I feel like this is something that gets overshadowed in relation to everything else that’s so memorable. It’s sharp as a whip, much in the same way King’s writing and dialogue is, it’s really funny when it wants to be and it makes everything feel that much more legit without making it hokey. Some of the stuff here definitely could have come off as corny, but somehow Darabont and King and the cast pull it off like it’s no big thing. Very awesome.

I read the short story by Stephen King that this movie was based off a while back, and while I absolutely love King, isn’t it great to come across movies that actually improve upon the source material? The only big difference between the book and the movie is that Brooks plays a greater role, but that’s about it. Everything else is fleshed out far more substantially by Darabont and, as you can see, it all really works out wonderfully in the end.

I like to think of The Shawshank Redemption as a ’90s version of Cool Hand Luke in a lot of ways – just kinda replace Luke with Andy in a sense – and considering that Cool Hand may very well be my favorite movie all-time, that’s quite the complement. So many memorable scenes that break your heart or lift you up, so many characters that you connect with like old friends or make your blood boil like a common enemy, and a story that is truly timeless. This movie will never get old, it’s messages will never be dated and if you’ve never seen it before, I thought I already told you to stop reading this thing a while ago. 

Man, I love Forrest Gump as much as the next guy, but Shawshank deserved Best Picture.

Near perfection.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. January 29, 2010 7:37 am

    Have you seen “Animal Factory”, if not, I recommend it since you like (adore!) Shawshank.

  2. Ryan permalink
    January 29, 2010 9:49 am

    Up and vanished like a fart in the wind… Great great movie. If it’s on tv, I am always watching it

    • January 29, 2010 9:54 am

      Hahaha, great line. And I’m right there with ya on the second comment.

  3. January 29, 2010 1:44 pm

    The ending scene of TSR is definitely my favorite scene in the movie, and in my all time top 10 list. Shawshank is such an inspiring film, and there are so many great scenes.

    For example, the scene when the new prisoners are standing in a line, the ending scene, and of course, the music on the loudspeaker.

    Thanks for this great review!
    Josh Lipovetsky.

    • January 29, 2010 1:57 pm

      Thanks, man. Hard not to like this one. That opera music scene is something else when Andy just turns up the volume and leans on back when the Warden is threatening him from outside. So freakin’ great. Thanks for the comment, Josh.

  4. Branden permalink
    January 29, 2010 3:19 pm

    This is probably every man’s top five films of all time with “The Godfather”, “Field of Dreams” and “Fight Club.” I cannot believe that this movie did not win a single Oscar. Is anybody talking about “Borest Dump” now? Not much.

    You realize that Red was supposed to be Irish and they got Morgan to do it? Wow. The ending wasn’t in the original cut of the movie. It was left ambigious. Either ending works as well to me.

    Fuck, I love this movie so much.

    • January 29, 2010 3:29 pm

      Yeah, I did know that about Red. That’s how it is in the short story, it’s funny when Andy asks him why he’s called “Red” and he replies, “Maybe it’s ’cause I’m Irish.” Cool how that worked out, and it worked out beautifully. Glad they put the ending in, seeing the blue ocean like that really brings it all home for me.

  5. January 30, 2010 7:19 pm

    Great movie and one of my all-time favorite. So little action and yet so mesmerizing, that’s great story-telling and the highlight of Tim Robbins’ career.

  6. January 30, 2010 8:39 pm

    Great stuff man, and you are definitely not alone in thinking of TSR as flawless. I don’t think of myself as anyone special when it comes to discussing movies, but in my humble opinion TSR is the greatest movie ever made and has been atop my all-time movies list for as long as I can remember.

  7. mcarteratthemovies permalink
    February 1, 2010 3:19 pm

    How can anyone not have seen and loved beyond reason this movie? Stranger things have happened, I suppose.

    In my mind “Shawshank Redemption” is one of the few truly great adaptations of Stephen King’s work. There’s a faithfulness to the original story — “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption — that retains most of the most insightful lines, and Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman are simply perfectly cast as Andy and Red.

  8. February 26, 2010 12:12 pm

    “Man, I love Forrest Gump as much as the next guy, but Shawshank deserved Best Picture.”

    Man, I really like Gump and I love Shawshank, but Pulp Fiction deserved Best Picture.

    • February 26, 2010 12:16 pm

      Hahaha, yeah, it did. But such is the Oscars. Of any movie that came out in the ’90s PF was the only one that really changed the way people make and watch movies. We know who the real winner is, man. Time will prove us right.

      Thanks for visiting the site btw, don’t be a stranger.

  9. Morton White permalink
    March 24, 2010 7:08 am

    A stupid, dull and sentimentally insufferably sugared movie. It’s cliché-ridden crap and if you’ve seen other prison movies it’s simply a waste of time. 2/5 is what it deserves. Some people find this the greatest movie ever made. Well, fine if they like it but it’s like calling Big Mac gourmet food. You can watch Shawshank once if you’ve got nothing else to do just as you occasionally eat at Dunkin Donuts, but don’t expect as much as some morons tell you there is in it.

    Isn’t anything good about TSR? Well, yes the cinematography is fine and the actors are good but otherwise prepare for the most overrated piece of dung ever to appear on the screen.

    • March 24, 2010 7:33 am

      Yikes, can’t say I’ve ever heard that before. So much hate…

      Well, to each his own I guess, but I still love this movie. Great stuff.

    • March 24, 2010 8:31 am

      Nothing discredits an opinion as fast as when you decide to call the people you disagree with morons. It’s fine if you don’t like TSR, I don’t expect everyone to like it, but when the best you can come up with is to call the people who like the film morons, then you really don’t have anything worthwhile to add to the discussion.

  10. February 12, 2012 8:49 am

    I just found your blog today and I am glad I did. I love movies because they make a bad day tolerable and a good day even better. I am Tim Robbins real-life double. Everywhere I go, I get “you look like Tim Robbins”. I actually worked in a prison for a brief time and one of the workers there stared at me every day when I came in because she swore I was Tim Robbins. Over my couch, i have a scene from Shawshank where Andy is talking to Red on the bleachers in the yard. I must say that this is the best movie ever made by far. The look on the warden’s face when he realized that Andy double crossed him was brilliant. The humility that Red showed when he asked permission to use the restroom when he was bagging groceries (that was my first job besides my paper route). The never-die hope that Andy had despite being screwed by the so-called justice system is awe-inspiring.


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