What a time to be alive. The sun is shining (occasionally), the UK has experienced a month filled with public holidays (including an extra day off due to the King’s Coronation), and now this week one of the best movies of all time is back in cinemas.
No, it’s not BMX Bandits, nor is it Return of the Killer Tomatoes, but it is The Shawshank Redemption. The film is being re-released this week as part of Warner Bros. Pictures’ 100th anniversary celebrations and will return to UK cinemas for a limited time from Friday 19th May.
Directed by Frank Darabont, The Shawshank Redemption stars Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, James Whitmore, and Clancy Brown. The movie is a prison drama about a former banker sentenced to life imprisonment, but who never gives up hope of one day being on the other side of the bars.
In the film, the year is 1947 and Andy Dufresne arrives at Shawshank State Prison to serve out two consecutive life sentences for murder. Upon arrival he meets Ellis ‘Red’ Redding – a fellow inmate who is serving a life sentence, and who will eventually become a friend.
As Andy attempts to settle into life on the inside he is assigned a role within the prison laundry. However, over the next couple of years things become increasingly difficult for Andy, as he is brutally assaulted by fellow inmates on a regular basis.
But after he helps the Captain of the guard with a tax problem, word gets out that Andy has useful skills. He is then reassigned to the library by the Warden, who asks him to use his financial knowledge to assist other staff members.
As the years pass by, Andy continues to work on tasks which benefit the Warden, and help him gain wealth. At the same time, Andy’s friendship with Red grows stronger, as does his continued desire to leave the confines of the prison.
Based on the novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King, The Shawshank Redemption is often cited as one of cinema’s all-time greats. King believes it to be the best adaptation of his work (alongside Stand By Me); the film regularly appears on lists of ‘Best Movies’; and lead actor Tim Robbins has lost track of the amount of times he has been told by fans The Shawshank Redemption changed their lives forever.
OK, so the film flopped at the box office back in 1994, because people failed to go to see it, but thanks to an awards season re-release, a second life on VHS and DVD, and multiple TV broadcasts, The Shawshank Redemption eventually found its audience. That audience has championed it ever since – and rightly so!
The Shawshank Redemption more than deserves its reputation for excellence. From its expert direction and note-perfect casting, through to its stark tone and spellbinding story, Shawshank has it all, and then some, offering up 142-minutes of sheer genius.
From the moment the movie begins, and Andy Dufresne is introduced, The Shawshank Redemption has a way of latching onto audiences and refusing to let go. There’s something intriguing about Andy’s backstory, as well as Tim Robbins’ performance, and when combined the two give the opening prologue a very strong start.
And then once the movie pushes beyond the prologue and Andy is brought into Shawshank State Prison, things only get better. The prison is filled with a wealth of compelling characters, from James Whitmore’s amiable Brooks, to Clancy Brown’s ruthless Captain Hadley, and they all bring something to the story with no character wasted.
All of the actors in this picture are at the top of their game, with Freeman in particular excelling as the affable Red. Freeman pulls double duties here, both on screen and through some ongoing narration, and he essentially provides a warm hug, even during the bleaker moments in the picture.
But Shawshank doesn’t just work so well because of the characters and the actors, there is also a rich, fully developed story here, with multiple emotional highs and lows. This is a tale about the human spirit and about perseverance, with Stephen King’s mark all over it, and it is so damn good.
However, while this is King’s story and his ideas, the film is enhanced by Frank Darabont’s screenplay which ensures it all comes together effortlessly on screen. Then to add to this is some stunning cinematography, courtesy of Roger Deakins, which makes every frame look beautiful.
Deakins made this film shine back in ’94 and almost 30 years later, it remains the same. The Shawshank Redemption is a period picture, which will remain forever locked in time, and a large part of this is because of how Deakins shot it.
If you have never watched The Shawshank Redemption, even though you are aware of its status as a cinematic icon, I can only presume you are a very busy person and you simply haven’t had the time. Hey, it happens, we’ve all got things to do – no one can blame you.
But now the movie is back on the big screen, and you’ve got a little bit of warning, take a few hours to down tools and go and see it. There is a reason The Shawshank Redemption is so well revered, and if you spare a bit of your time you’ll find this out for yourself.
As with other recent big screen re-releases (Beetlejuice, The Dark Knight, etc), The Shawshank Redemption will only be back in cinemas for about a week, so please be mindful of this. Check your local listings to see if your cinema is screening the film, and if it is, go see something which is certainly worth the cost of your ticket.
Thank you for taking the time to read this review on It’s A Stampede!. For more reviews, check out the recommended reads below.
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