WolfmanOz at the Movies #68

Hope is a good thing

Was what prisoner Andy Dufresne says to his fellow prisoner and close friend Ellis “Red” Redding in the superlative prison drama film The Shawshank Redemption.

Released in 1994, the film was a box-office disappointment and despite being nominated for a swag of awards it wasn’t until its release on VHS that the film found its mass audience where it has become one of the most beloved films of the last 30 years. Ironically then, most people have not seen it in a movie theatre. I know I haven’t as I missed it and like so many I viewed it first on home media and it has remained a favourite of mine ever since.

Based on the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth And Shawshank Redemption the film tells the story of banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), who is sentenced to life imprisonment in Shawshank State Penitentiary for the murders of his wife and her lover, despite his claims of innocence. Over the following two decades, he befriends a fellow prisoner, contraband smuggler Ellis “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman), and becomes instrumental in a money laundering scheme led by the prison warden.

The film is narrated by Morgan Freeman’s character where he gives a commanding performance which makes him a much stronger figure than simply an observer. Freeman’s performance is especially moving when describing how dependent Red had become on living within the prison walls. It’s a great performance.

The discovery by Andy of The Marriage Of Figaro record is described in the screenplay as akin to finding the Holy Grail, bringing the prisoners to a halt, and causing the sick to rise up in their beds; and as a piece of cinema it is simply sublime.

The significant and enduring public appreciation for the film has often been difficult for critics to define. I certainly can think of no other film that has captured the growing and deep friendship of two people as this film does whilst being an uplifting, deeply satisfying prison drama with sensitive direction by debutant Frank Darabont plus uniformly fine performances by the entire cast.

The film’s ending with the two re-uniting on the beach in Zihuatanejo is a perfect coda as the concept of Zihuatanejo resonates with the audience because it represents a form of escape that can be achieved after surviving for many years within whatever “jail” someone finds themselves in.


and the tease for next weeks post . . . Good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor they are all equal now.