The Shawshank Redemption Movie Review

The Shawshank Redemption Movie Review

December 16, 2014

The Shawshank Redemption
The Shawshank Redemption (1994) is an outstanding typical “hybrid film of both the crime and drama genre” (Clifton, 2009). The film’s director Frank Darabont adapted Stephen King’s 1982 novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. The film relies heavily on great storytelling, acting, sound and editing to engulf the audience throughout the entire movie. The films debut in the box office was average at best but through word-of-mouth has gained popularity and became one of the best movies of all time.

The Film and Analysis
The movie has some very interesting narrative elements. The film is about a man named Andy Dufresne who is wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. He is ultimately sentenced to serve two consecutive life sentences at Shawshank Prison. The film was set in 1947-1966 and follows his experiences over the next 20 years at the prison. He has a very difficult time at first, but eventually befriends an inmate named Ellis “Red” Redding, who is also the narrator of the movie. Red was sentenced to life in Shawshank prison at the age of 19 and is known in the prison as the man who can get anything. Throughout the film, we see the movie through the eyes of Red, who serves as the narrator that leads to a surprising ending.

In analyzing the film, I find it to be a story of hope with religious themes of freedom and resurrection. The director uses powerful themes of patience, hope, survival, friendship, redemption and in the end salvation to develop the characters. The use of effective cinematography, music, lighting and deep symbolism greatly assist enhance the feeling of the story.
“Get busy living or get busy dying” is a symbolic quote by Andy in that it makes us remember just how precious life is. The use of dark lighting and low angles are used to film the gray and depressed prison scenes, thereby giving them an ominous feel of misery. This shapes the audiences appreciation of the inmates’ desperate need of hope. The sunlight surrounding the inmates on the rooftop scene appeals to fundamental human empathy. The scene allows the audience to understand the pleasure and liberation felt by these inmates whom at the moment feel like free men as they have a hint of normalcy. The close-up camera shot of Andy's face as he receives a response to the many letters he submitted to repair the library depict his determination never to give up. The long camera shot of him relaxing in the chair after defiantly playing the “Aria” further demonstrate his perseverance with the use symbolical musical elements. The use of high angled camera shots and shots of the inmates staring into the loudspeaker as if they were mesmerized, allow us to see just how far Andy is willing to go to provide hope and a bit of normality to his fellow inmates. His merits ultimately lead to his redemption at the culmination of the final scene of his escape. After crawling through 300 yards of a sewer pipe and triumphantly emerging at the end in clean water with his arms spread wide he rejoices in the symbolic salvation through the blessing of the rain.
I believe this film deserves four stars and is my favorite movie of all time. Below is an explanation of my review criteria:

**** Outstanding movie. It has ambitions to be more than an entertainment. It has a strong script. It is not only well made with elements of poetry (beauty), but it has a strong emotional impact on the viewer. A must-see movie for everyone!
*** A good movie that does not have quite the same aesthetic and emotional impact as the previous category. It is an interesting movie. It might be a mainstream movie intended primarily for entertainment, but with strong characters and some serious themes.
** An acceptable occasion for spending eight bucks. It may, however, be quite ordinary, falling within expected genre boundaries, perhaps depending mainly on star appeal for its audience impact. It is probably well made, but has deficiencies in characterization, script, etc. that are obvious to the discerning viewer.
* Poor example of a movie. How could someone spend $10 million on this turkey? Plot