9. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994)
The best word to describe The Shawshank Redemption is heartfelt. That may seem odd for a film about prison but the film warmly welcomes us into the prison family. The Shawshank Redemption develops emotion steadily and allows its effect to slowly sprout around. Most films today create quick, superficial emotions that are stuck within the border of the film screen. Not Shawshank. The film uses beautiful narration from Morgan Freeman to tell a story of the continuity of life and hope. The Shawshank Redemption is far deeper than many other films that have come out in the past 30 years. I have never been so uplifted by a movie before and that’s saying something.
The film is based off of Stephen King’s novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. The film is about a banker named Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), who is framed for the murder of his wife and her lover, received two lifetime prison sentences. This seemingly simple story is told from an interesting perspective. We do not see through the eyes of Andy but rather through the people around him. His prison friend Ellis ‘Red’ Redding (Morgan Freeman), the corrupt Warden Norton, the old prison librarian Brooks, guards and other prisoners offer their point of view of Andy. This gives the film a different focus. The film is not about Andy but instead about people’s relationship with Andy, their curiosity towards him, their admiration towards him, etc. We still ultimately relate with Andy, as he is our gateway into the setting of Shawshank prison. The actual redemption in the film is Red’s, when Andy teaches him the merits of hope and patience.
The film has a sympathetic but realistic portrayal of prisoners. Red says a very famous line in the film: “These walls are funny. First you hate ‘em, then you get used to ‘em. If enough time passes, you start to depend on them.” Some of the prisoners in Shawshank have been there for most of their life. To them, leaving Shawshank sounds scarier than dying there. They might be something in jail but in the real world, they could be nothing. There still exist prisoners in the film that are just horrible people. Some are proud of what they do, some pick on other prisoners. It is this kind of psychoanalysis of prisoners that proves The Shawshank Redemption as multi-dimensioned film. We begin to feel compassion and understanding for people we would generally look down upon yet we still remember the horrible crimes they have committed.
The Internet Movie Database (IMDb)’s top 250 movies of all time is a highly unreliable list as the ranking is mostly based off of audience opinions. The top 5 movies on the top 250 from #1-#5 are The Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Dark Knight and Pulp Fiction. Casual audience members usually go to movies to see action scenes and things blowing up. Shawshank doesn’t have any of that. So why does The Shawshank Redemption sit at the top? I think it’s because The Shawshank Redemption is more than just a film and instead a spiritual experience that tucks the heartstrings of anybody. The Shawshank Redemption proves how wholehearted a film about human captivity can be.