When you first think of Stephen King, what comes to mind? Is it a scary clown or the monster under your bed? He’s known as the king of horror for good reason, but he didn’t get where he is by being a mediocre storyteller or caring only about what scares his readers. That shines clearly in Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, and Frank Darabont captured that magic in his movie, The Shawshank Redemption.
The movie first introduces you to Red, a long-time inmate at the Shawshank prison up in Maine. He’s trying to explain to the parole board that yes, he is rehabilitated and yes, he deserves to be free. They deny his plea, and he goes back with his fellow inmates, but he’s not really surprised.
New inmates soon arrive, among them Andy Dufresne. He’s a quiet man, one who keeps to himself. He’s imprisoned for killing his wife and her lover, though he maintains his innocence. It takes a while, but Andy eventually befriends Red. Red is the man who can get you anything you need, whether it’s cigarettes, beer, or even a tiny rock hammer. The first two years of Andy’s stay in prison are horrible. He’s set on by a group of inmates multiple times, but thanks to his old life as a banker, he’s able to prove himself useful to one of the prison guards. This results in protection, which leads to a job in the library, which eventually leads to a job for the warden himself.
Throughout the movie, Andy remains calm and cool. The judge at his hearing had called him remorseless. Some of his fellow inmates called him a cold fish. Even his wife complained about how he wouldn’t open up to her. He’s rarely ruffled, so the times he’s excited or angry are that much more powerful. Andy stands up to the guard who would throw him off the roof. He refuses to back down when speaking to the warden. And he won’t let Red give up hope.
Red, played by Morgan Freeman, narrates the movie, and through his narration, you really get to know Andy. You see his heart for his fellow inmates; you see his strength against those who wield more power, and you see his intelligence in knowing how to best use what he knew in his outside life.
The Shawshank Redemption makes use of bleak colors, very few shots of the sky, and sweeping views of the prison, but this is not a sad movie. The incarcerated men are coarse and sometimes ill-mannered, but you fall in love with them anyway. And the warden and his most-trusted guard, Captain Hadley, are men you love to hate, but even they’re fleshed out. They’re not one-dimensional, which makes their actions that much more despicable.
In the end, this is the story of friendship and hope. It’s the story of two inmates who won’t give up on each other and the story of a man who refuses to lie down and take a beating. Throughout the movie, he maintains his innocence, and the ending of this movie is perfect. There is nothing I’d change, and while this is a slow burner, every minute is worth watching.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carol Starkley lives with her husband, three daughters, and numerous pets. She likes to read, write, bake, and dabble with the clarinet. She also infrequently blogs.