Thursday, 17 September 2015

September Blindspot: The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawkshank Redeption, 1994
Directed by Frank Darabont

I feel like everytime I start one of my blindspot reviews, I start with "somehow I have gone my whole life without seeing this movie...". It's always true though! I'm not exactly sure how I got away without seeing the Shawshank Redemption for this long, but I did. I saw the first 30-45 minutes on TV (on my honeymoon of all places) but opted that it was too depressing a movie for 11pm start time after a day on the beach.

Anyway, I was already in a blue mood when I decided I finally had time to sit down and watch Shawshank Redemption. Again, I won't be avoiding spoilers for this movie, since this did come out 21 years ago.

The Shawshank Redemption, based on the novel by Stephen King, is the story of the people inside Shawshank Prison in the 1940's. It mainly focuses on Andy Dufresne, a man who is convicted of killing his wife and her lover, and Red, a man who's been at Shawshank for 20 years already, and has, once again, been rejected from his request for parole. Andy enters the prison quiet and stoic. He doesn't break down like the rest of the men, which surprises Red. It's several years before Andy begins to open up to others, but he and Red find themselves draw into a close friendship. Both are decent men who are seeking redemption, and who strive to do good.

The Shawshank Redemption is a melancholic, but beautiful movie. It's depressing but also quite lovely. It's the grey cloud with the silver lining- the ray of hope. Hope and redemption seem to be the driving forces behind this movie, and, even when this movie is at its darkest, it never fully succumbs to being downright depressing. That ray of hope is always there, even if only really dim.

My heart constantly ached for the characters in this film. Andy spent the first few years of his sentence being consistently raped. We also witness the brutality of the police security in the prison, and the dishonesty of the prison warden. Red, as well, has learned from his mistakes (he's the only guilty prisoner in Shawshank, don't you know!) but is still being denied parole. But Andy is able to grow past this. He's a smart guy and was a Vice President of a bank before his enprisonment. He starts doing taxes for various policemen, and also starts helping run the library, and writes several letters a week, campaigning for a budget increase for it, which he eventually very successfully wins, after several year. Red is by Andy's side through all of this, as the two men become closer and are constantly looking out for each other. Both want to see the other succeed, make a difference, and do good things.

One of the very best parts of the movie was the last 20-30 minutes. We've come to realize Andy actually is innocent, like he had insisted during his trial. But just when Red and the others in their group suspect Andy is about to kill himself during the night, Andy actually escapes. Using a rock hammer he had acquired only a few years after arriving at Shawshank, Andy has been chipping away at his wall and creates a tunnel. Finally, after 20 years of chipping in the night does Andy escape and move to Mexico. Eventually, Red is granted parole and joins with Andy in Mexico.

The ending was extremely hopeful and downright happy after the events of the movie. Red is struggling to find where he belongs outside prison, and contemplates doing some sort of crime so he can go back to Shawshank, because it's where his life was. As well, the (non-surprising) twist of Andy being innocent and escaping is just so well done and beautifully told.

Tim Robbins is quite sublime as Andy, and Morgan Freeman is never better than here, playing Red. Red is strong and gentle, resourceful and loyal. Red and Andy form a lifelong friendship and both will do anything for the other. This friendship is beautifully and realisticaly portrayed.

I could probably go on and on about how much I liked this movie. It made me sad but it was a good kind of contemplative sad. A beautiful melancholy.

There's a reason why this movie is so beloved. It doesn't try to be a "Manly" prison movie, but is actually quite emotive and powerful. It's about redemption and finding your place in the world. And I really did love every moment of this movie. The fact that it lost Best Picture to Forrest Gump is truly quite startling (and even a little unsettling). While I still haven't seen Pulp Fiction (coming soon!), this seems a terrible loss. Shawshank Redemption is a fantastic movie.

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