#6- The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

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Who's List Was This On
- Adam Kaplan: #1
- Dan Bennett: #3
- Cubsfan4evr1: #3

Directed By: Frank Darabont
Written By: Frank Darabont
Starring: Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman
Based Upon: The novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King

The Plot

Successful banker Andy Dufrense (Robbins) gets convicted of shooting and killing his wife and the man she was sleeping with. He gets sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in prison. While in jail he befriends "The Man Who Can Get You Anything You Want" Ellis "Red" Redding (Freeman). The story is about the relationship between Red and Andy and what Andy must do in order to survive in prison.

Why This Movie Is Great

I have literally seen this movie 30+ times. I love The Shawshank Redemption, I can (probably) quote the entire movie to you, and no matter what else is on I can will always stop what I'm doing and watch the two and a half plus hour epic. The voters who vote on imdb.com rarely do anything right but ranking Shawshank as the best film ever was their greatest accomplishment. AFI finally wisened up. They left Shawshank off of their original top 100 greatest movies ever list but it ranked #72 in their 10th anniversary edition and it ranked it as the best film of 1994 ahead of Forrest Gump (76) and Pulp Fiction (94). (Also, fyi, how great of a year was 1994 for movies, right?). Forrest Gump swept the Academy Awards that year leaving Frank Darabont and company in the dust. As great of a movie as Forrest Gump is (we here at GOI ranked it as the 9th best movie in the past 25 years) Shawshank deserved every single award except for Best Actor (that one obviously still deserved to go to Hanks).

The Shawshank Redemption is probably the worst title ever for a movie. Distance yourself from the quality of the film and think about if you just saw a poster for this movie and nothing else. The title doesn't make sense until you watch the film. If you were a casual fan in 1995 renting a movie (Shawshank was the most rented movie of 1995 and one of the highest rented films ever) and you saw this new release called The Shawshank Redemption and you didn't know anything about it besides the snooty Academy liked it, you would never have watched it. Frank Darabont freely admits it's a terrible name for a movie.

OK now, enough with the background, let me talk to you briefly about why The Shawshank Redemption is a great movie along with its thematic elements. At its core, the film is about institutionalization and hope. The subtitle of Stephen King's novella is "Hope Springs Eternal". Frank Darabont did an amazing thing to add to these ideas. First, he added the "Brooks" character- a character that did not exist in the original novella. The story line that surrounds Brooks not only helps pave way for the reveal surrounding Red at the end of the movie but he is everything the movie stands for and a physical embodiment of its themes. The second amazing thing Darabont did was add the element of music and literature to help show what a great thing Hope can be. Andy listens to music while in "The Hole", creates a library for the prison, gets records for them and even plays a beautiful opera song for the entire prison ("I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid"). When Andy plays the opera song over the loudspeaker, everyone in the prison just stands there in awe. For a moment, all the prisoners were free because of the power of music.

The Shawshank Redemption is a character study into the lives of both Andy and Red. Andy is this mild mannered, wouldn't-harm-a-fly type of guy before entering jail. The film however portrays how prison will change a man. Andy first has to fight for his life against the prison's "Bull Queers"- a gang full of homosexuals who use force to have their way with the other male prisoners. But as Andy spends more time in prison he uses his intelligence and banking knowledge to his advantage to help get out of trouble and ends up shaping the entire prison landscape.

However, once Andy goes to prison within the first five minutes of the movie, the film is never seen through Andy's point of view. The entire film is narrated by and is seen through the eyes of Red. The story follows Andy but the story was created to show how Andy affected Red life and the life of everyone around Andy.

I don't know why I love this film so much but I think it's because this was the first real film I can ever remember seeing. In 1995, a little 8 year old Adam was at his cousin's house when he saw this great film for the first time and ever since then he's been hooked. It was probably a poor parenting decision on somebody's fault as there is graphic rape and violence scenes which is probably inappropriate for an 8 year old to see, but I'm glad I saw the film. I think this movie is so great because it's a slow build. You grow with these characters. You love these characters. Frank Darabont does a fantastic job making you care about these characters that you want to see what happens to them throughout their lives.

I read Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption about eight years after I saw the movie and like everything, the first thing you read/watch is always the better version. I enjoyed Rita Hayworth but The Shawshank Redemption is infinitely superior. Here are some key differences (that I remember) between the novella and the book. Although truthfully, Darabont did a damn good job being truthful to the short story.

- As mentioned earlier, the character "Brooks" was a creation of Darabont, not King.
- In the novella, the character Red was a white, Irish dude. That's the actual reason the character is named "Red". Darabont originally wanted to cast a white man, but when he saw Morgan Freeman during casting call he couldn't resist. However when Andy asked him why his name was "Red" the line for the movie, "Maybe its 'cause I'm Irish" was left in as a joke.
- In the movie there is only one prison warden- Warden Norton (Bob Gunton) and boy howdy is he a great movie villain. However, in the novella there are several wardens that run Shawshank during Andy's tenure. I liked Darabont's decision to keep one, main warden for cohesive purposes.


- The short story foreshadowed Andy's escape. Andy would sometimes have a prison mate in the novella and about five pages before Andy escapes, his roommate at the time kept complaining how his cell with Andy was always cold and always had a draft in it. Not only do I like the decision to not foreshadow Andy's escape in the movie and make it a huge surprise, but I also like to decision to not give Andy any roommates. It shows the kind of power Andy had while in prison and it makes it more believable how Andy escapes- it's a lot easier to do what he did without any cell mates.
- The one thing the novella got right that the movie did not was the ending scene in the short story was Red hopping on a bus to Mexico talking about how he hopes to see his friend again and how he hopes the water is as blue as his mind makes it out to be. Considering the entire movie is about hope this was a perfect way to end the film. However, the movie studio thought the audience would feel unfulfilled by that ending so they forced Darabont to add by one more scene to the movie where Red does in fact meet up with Andy in Mexico.

After watching the movie multiple times with Frank Darabont's commentary to it, watching the special features disc of the film, and trolling imdb, here are some great facts about The Shawhank Redemption that I think you will enjoy.

- The one thing fans get "upset" about is the film never explains how Andy got his movie poster to stick to the wall so perfectly so that when Warden Norton throws the rock through the poster the poster is tight enough so that the rock passes through it. On the DVD commentary Darabont admits he probably should have explained that.
- The warden hands Andy his Bible when he first tosses his cell and says "Salvation Lies Within". First of all, I think it's great how Andy "gives back" the Bible and you see how the rock hammer lay within. I love that shit. Secondly, that Bible was "Exodus". Notice any similarities between the book of "Exodus" and Andy's story?
- Before the movie was made, the script had the original title of the Stephen King novella. One agent who clearly didn't read the script sent a letter to Frank Darabont stating his client would be perfect for the role of "Rita Hayworth"
- Frank Darabont was very hesistant to use voice overs throughout the film. However, after constantly watching Goodfellas throughout the production of the Shawshank he decided it would be OK.
- Stephen King sold the movie right to his novella to Darabont for a dollar because the two were pals beforehand.

LASTLY, I would be remiss to talk about Shawshank without showing you this great Family Guy spoof of the film. Although, please watch The Shawshank Redemption if you haven't already before watching the spoof.

Family Guy - Shawshank Redemption Parody