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The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
A testament to the human spirit...
Seeing The Shawshank Redemption for a second time reinforced my feeling of admiration for this splendid film. Although I am writing my review in 2014 -- twenty years after the movie's original release -- it seems as fresh and alive as ever. Top-notch performances by all cast members, exceptional cinematography by Roger Deakins, and masterful direction by Frank Darabont (who also penned the screenplay based on Stephen King's short story "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption") combine to make the film something special indeed.
Co-stars Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins simply transform themselves into two unconventional prisoners. Their inspired acting helps us understand the virtue of patience and hope, regardless of how long and how much suffering one might face. Freeman plays "Red" Redding, a man who has adapted to prison life by becoming the institution's "go to" guy for various items from the outside world. Robbins is Andy Dufresne, a successful banker sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife and lover. These very different men become friends who think decency and kindness are important, even in the brutal prison environment.
That brutality may be very hard for viewers to watch, but those disturbing scenes are necessary to give the film its gritty realism. Sadistic Warden Norton (Bob Gunton) runs Shawshank Prison like it's his own personal kingdom, and Captain Hadley (Clancy Brown) carries out the warden's orders -- very enthusiastically.
Things change for the better when Captain Hadley receives help with some paperwork from Andy. It's not long until Andy is assisting all the guards with their tax returns. Soon Warden Norton takes interest in Andy and uses him for his own paperwork. The result? The warden grants little favors that improve the lives of the prisoners. Unfortunately, a new prisoner (Gil Bellows) arrives with a revelation about Andy's case -- one that creates chaos for everyone concerned. The only thing Andy can do involves a daring escape. But how? And what will happen to Red if Andy leaves?
Although The Shawshank Redemption boasts a number of memorable scenes, my favorite shows Andy broadcasting an opera selection to the entire prison population. All the men are stunned as they listen in awe to the beautiful music. However, as you've probably heard, no good deed goes unpunished. Especially at Shawshank.
Released in 1994, this acclaimed motion picture earned seven well-deserved Academy Award nominations including a Best Actor nod for Morgan Freeman. The film also won the Humanitas prize, the Crystal Heart Award from the Heartland Film Fest, and was among the National Board of Review's Top Ten Films of 1994.