There are not many films that manage to reach the absolute top of the IMDB score ratings, and manage to remain there despite so many better films coming out. This is the story of The Shawshank Redemption, often called Frant Darabont’s magnum opus, and it is based on one of Stephen King’s most underrated novelizations. So, why is it that The Shawshank Redemption did what other films couldn’t do? How did it manage to remain as one of the most consistently beloved films to ever release? Let’s find out!
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The Movie Review
The film follows the story of Andy Dufresne, a banker who is convicted of murdering his very own wife and her lover. Andy’s convicted and then later sentenced to life imprisonment within the Shawshank Penitentiary Prison.
The story follows Andy as he makes his way from being one of the most bullied inmates in the prison, to becoming an unconventionally adored member of the prison’s community. Now, together with Ellis ‘Red’ Boyd Redding and other inmates such as Heywood, Bogs, Tommy, and Brooks, Andy sets out to create an environment for inmates where they feel welcomed.
Conspiracies arise as Andy gets more and more entangled with the Prison Warden, and how the relationship between them leads to concerning situations for Andy.
The direction that Frank Darabont chooses to use in this film is slow-paced but without any filler content. Every single scene in the film matters to the core story and provides much-needed context to every single character’s past and their contribution to the film.
There are characters that are introduced as late as 90 minutes into the film, which manage to do way more than they should have for the film. Characters aren’t really used as plot devices here either. All of them have their own stories, their own jobs, and goals, along with motivations to get out.
Darabont brilliantly showcases how being in prison for so long can completely change people. When they get out of their imprisonment, they are thrust into a life of which they are completely unaware. The real world starts to seem bleaker and much more pointless than anything they’ve experienced so far, and that is the beauty of The Shawshank Redemption.
It is almost entirely based inside of a prison, and when the inmates do have to get leave, they don’t leave by their own volition. It also showcases how institutions manage to use these inmates for their own benefit, such as the greedy prison Warden making Andy his personal lawyer.
These complexities in its direction wouldn’t really be much if it wasn’t for the incredible performances by literally every single member of the cast present here. Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne delivers a great performance, but it’s actually cast members such as Morgan Freeman as Red and Bob Gunton as Samuel Norton (aka the Warden) who deliver absolute stand-out performances.
In terms of the overall aesthetic though, Shawshank Redemption completely fails. It does have a few specific story moments here or there which lead to some decent shots that you’ll remember. However aside from those few moments, the film lacks any distinct color palette or grading, along with pretty forgettable cinematography honestly.
The soundtrack is decent but doesn’t do much to elevate the film in any way. Presentation-wise, there could have been many things that should have been done differently to make the film a much more appealing viewing honestly. Still, it retains the quality in terms of direction and story-telling.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, The Shawshank Redemption is one of those films that you have to watch at least once in your lifetime. It doesn’t just give you an insight into how prison systems exploit their inmates and the inhuman way they are treated.
It also explores the effects and the traumas that a routine-based lifestyle like that could potentially lead up to. If only the film had better production values in terms of the cinematography and color grading, as well as a better soundtrack; it would’ve been Frank Darabont’s magnum opus indeed. For now, I’d still say I prefer The Mist over it!