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Shawshank Redemption, The (1994)...or, Who the Hell is Frank Darabont?

 Not to be confused with 'Platoon'
Not to be confused with Platoon

Genre: Crime Drama

Starring: Tim Robbins (The Hudsucker Proxy • The Player), Morgan Freeman (Lean on Me • Driving Miss Daisy)

Directed By: Frank Darabont (The Mist The Majestic)

Overview: A man sentenced to life in prison finds hope and perhaps even redemption with the help of his friend Red.

I wouldn't call myself a 'fan' of IMDb, just as I wouldn't call myself a fan of an encyclopedia or a dictionary, but there's no better for easy reference film stats. I will profess my love of the IMDb Top 250, however. For years I've checked it out from time to time and I certainly recall The Godfather being the solid Number One leader on that lovely list, which, as lists go, may be even more important than the AFI's top 100, since it includes all films, rather than only American pictures. I certainly recall the day that The Godfather got bumped down to Number 2, replaced on IMDb's Top 250 best movies ever list by The Shawshank Redemption. I might have raised a suspicious eyebrown, but I certainly didn't complain.

Just hearing the title is a little electric. It's the kind of film that perfectly conjures up Hitchcock's words, "What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out?" It's the kind of film that everyone's seen and will one day watch again, while still not being the elitist kind of movie that demands you discover shot-for-shot symbolism and imagery. The Shawshank Redemption is probably the best example of a sit-down, have-fun, roller coaster of drama that though is oft-tragic, remains fundamentally uplifting. It's the kind of movie about the human experience that everyone just plain likes.

Set in Shawshank prison, we follow the life of Andy Dufresne, a man sentenced to life imprisonment for murder. We experience Andy's years of trials and tribulations, as well as the friendship he makes with another lifer, Red. The story spans over 20 years and each scene is heavy with drama, injustice and, as the title reads, redemption.

What sets it apart is the characters. Every person in this film is believable while still being the perfect filmic archetype of friendship, justice, psychology, philosophy, nemesis or corrupt authority. Cast veteran actors Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in the lead, two versatile men who are well-known for their feel-good roles, support them with an outstanding cast, and you'll be more than happy to spend 142 minutes with Andy and his cellmates.

Now, for as you may all have seen this perfect little film, I'll bet there's a few things you didn't know about it:

It's based on a short story written by Stephen King entitled Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. And no, there's no evil witches, vampires, or supernatural happenings.

It's directed by Frank Darabont, a director you've probably never heard of. An accomplished screenwriter, Frank's directorial experience before this was a 30-minute short and a made-for-TV movie. After this first 'real' theatrical release film was made, Shawshank was nominated for Best Picture. Since then, Frank Darabont films have been almost entirely Stephen King's stories: another popular prison drama, The Green Mile, and the recently successful The Mist. He's directed a total of four features, and has been nominated for an Oscar three times. Not bad.

There was great interest in casting Tom Cruise as Andy Dufreshne and Clint Eastwood as Red. Imagine how weird that would be in hindsight...

It's ironic see, cause Redd is black and Andy is Black cause they're both playin' checkers, see

It's ironic see, cause Redd is black and Andy is Black cause they're both playin' checkers, see

Performance: 10 Cinematography: 8 Script: 8 Plot: 10 Mood: 10

Overall Rating: 92% (Definitely Has A Redeeming Quality)

A recent release on Blu-Ray is a great excuse for checking this one out again. And you know, even if you are a cynical bleak Tragedy-lover like me, you'll sink into this story just fine.

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