Review

  • Warning: Spoilers
    In 1947 Andy Dufresne is jailed for life for the murder of his wife and her lover. He is sent to Shawshank Prison where he tells his fellow inmates he is innocent… but as fellow inmate 'Red' says; everybody in Shawshank is innocent. Red has already served ten years and is the guy to see if you want something smuggled into the prison. Andy asks for two things; a small rock hammer and Rita Hayworth! Soon after Red provides him with one rock hammer and a large poster featuring Rita Hayworth. Life in Shawshank is not easy; the guards are brutal and some of the inmates are worse. Andy survives though and things get better when he is able to help the meanest of the guards avoid paying tax on an inheritance; soon he is acting as accountant to the whole prison and helping the corrupt warden squirrel away large sums of money earned by prison labour. He is able to use this position to improve the life of prisoners too; a few beers for a work party, improvements to the prison library and education for some inmates. All the time Andy professes his innocence then one day after he has spent almost twenty years behind bars a young man comes to Shawshank; the man tells the story of how a cellmate at a previous prison claimed to have murdered a man and the woman he was with leaving her banker husband to take the blame. Andy believes this may finally get him out of prison but there is no way the warden will let him go; he is too useful and he knows too much… that won't stop Andy though.

    This film, based on a Stephen King short story, is rightfully considered a classic. There are no scenes that felt unnecessary from start to finish the story moves at a good pace. We see both the good and the bad inside the prison; there are scenes of brutality but also scenes of joy such as watching the prisoners enjoy the simple pleasure of having a cold beer of a scorching day… it is details like this that make the film special. There is also the joy of seeing that Andy will not break and his greatest triumph coming just as it looks as if he has finally reached breaking point. The cast does a great job; Tim Robbins is great as Andy and the always reliable Morgan Freeman is on top form as Red; theirs is one of the great portrayals of a screen friendship. It isn't just the likable characters who are well acted though; Bob Gunton is subtly unpleasant as the hypocritical Warden; quoting scripture one minute profiteering, and much worse, the next; Clancy Brown is also great as the truly unpleasant Captain Hadley; the senior guard who brutalises the inmates. After the suffering inside the finale chapter where we see Andy's escape and revenge makes this a feel-good movie despite what we've seen before. This is definitely a must see film.