This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie/series/feature being covered here wouldn't exist.
"Once defined a "box office bomb", The Shawshank Redemption rightly deserves to go down in history as one of the best films of all time."
BY ELLIOT LINES SEPTEMBER 23, 2023
Widely regarded as one of the best movies of all time (according to IMdB), The Shawshank Redemption wasn't always received with this accolade. Even though it test screened well and opened with generally positive reviews from critics, the film was considered a "box office bomb", failing to recoup it's $25 million budget. At the 1995 Oscars it was nominated for as many as 7 awards, the most at the time for a Stephen King adaptation, however it did not win any category. Fast forward just under 30 years, The Shawshank Redemption has clearly aged like a fine wine, frequently appearing on top 100 lists and is many peoples favourite film of all time.
The film centres around banker Andy Dufresne when he arrives at Shawshank State Prison to serve two consecutive life sentences for murdering his wife and her lover. He is befriended by Ellis "Red" Redding, a contraband smuggler serving a life sentence, the two form a friendship over many years. Andy comes across the usual unpleasantness within the prison, but widely finds a way to live out his life, as best he can, and eventually gets the life he hopes for.
The Shawshank Redemption is unusual in a way that the commonly bleak and dingy setting of a prison feels so bright and full of life. The film makes you see the world through Andy's eyes, a man who is trying to make the best of a bad situation. The imagery composed by non other than Roger Deakins, an expert and one of the best in cinematography is paired with the calm narrative voice of Morgan Freeman talking us through this prison inmates experience in Shawshank prison. This gives a feeling of hope throughout the film, even when times are at their toughest for our main protagonist.
It's easy to see why this wasn't an easy sell for the box office, a prison drama nearly 150 minutes long with little to no drama, but the story is as compelling or even more so than any on screen. Even though Andy is at the centre, you generally don't see anything from his point of view, it all comes from Red. Ultimately this makes sense as Andy is a man of few words, quietly going about his business, at one point Red says "He strolled like a man in a park, without a care or worry in the world.". This was clearly not normal for new inmates and there was something different about Andy which Red warmed to immediately..
The relationships with Andy are the heartbeat of the film, making this an unconventional "prison flick". We see Andy get extremely close to Red, but also the old librarian Brooks, the warden and even the prison guards. But even these people can't understand why Andy is full of hope, there is a mystery to him, even for the audience. Is he innocent? There is clearly more to the eye to this quiet man, and he is just biding his time ready to take his opportunity. These relationships that he builds, revealing his story one little bit at a time create the structure for the whole film, a story that never drags and keeps the audience compelled throughout.
The Shawshank Redemption turns the bleak in to the extraordinary, a two plus hour prison drama has no right to result in something so beautiful. This is the film that inspired me to see the beauty in cinema, a film I will always love and never hesitate to watch over and over again. Once defined a "box office bomb", The Shawshank Redemption rightly deserves to go down in history as one of the best films of all time.