The Shawshank Redemption

Dir: Frank Darabont
Star: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler

The greatest movie of all time? It's this one, according to voters at the IMDB, where just shy of 900,000 votes have propelled it to the top spot. I can't quite agree. It's good, certainly. Very good. But it falls short - and clearly short, in my humble opinion - of awesome. It's the story, over 20 years or so, of Andy Dufresne (Robbins), a banker convicted of a murder he didn't commit, and sent to Shawshank State Pentitentiary. Initially quiet and withdrawn, he eventualy befriends another lifer, prison fixer Red (Freeman), and wins over the most brutal of the guards by helping him out with a tax issue - that also leads to a job working for the warden (Gunton), and in the prison library. Andy hopes for release, especially when another inmate says the real killer confessed to him in another jail. However, there's more than one way to get out of prison...

This centres on two very solid performances from Freeman and Robbins, but truth be told, given this is a film that last 142 minutes, for a lot of the time there isn't that much going on. Admittedly, that only works out at about 7-8 minutes per year - not sure if it was deliberate, but Dufresne hardly seems to age a day, despite two decades in a brutal penal system. Still, the underlying theme can be entirely summed up in this quote from Dufresne: "Hope is a good thing - maybe the best of things - and no good thing ever dies." With that established, there isn't much else to say, though between the acting and Roger Deakins' wonderful cinematography, that captures both the depths of despair and the heights of hope, it's never a chore to watch, even when the story is not progressing significantly. It just didn't quite provide me with any deep emotional connection or lasting impact, in the way I expect truly great movies to do. However, unlike other movies highly ranked on the IMDB [coughPulpFictioncough], I can see why it might be considered among the best.

[January 2013]

No-one here gets out alive...
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