The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 movie that starred Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne (confusingly pronounced Du-frayne rather than Du-Fres-Nay), who you’d recognise as a Public News Anchor in Anchorman (or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Burgundy!), the POTUS in Austin Powers 2 and a crazed civilian in the 2005 crapfest War Of The Worlds. It also starred Morgan Freeman, who you’d recognise from just about any movie past this point where they needed a truly awesome voice to do narration, but he’s also starred as Lucius Fox in the Dark Knight saga of recent years, God in the [INSERT NAME HERE] Almighty films and the narrator for the aforementioned crapfest, War Of The Worlds. This is the movie that pretty much started his narrating career, with just one or two small scale roles before it.
The film also stars, in a semi-minor role, Clancy Brown (the voice of Mr. Krabs in Spongebob Squarepants, Neo Cortex from Crash Bandicoot and Highlander villain, The Kurgan) in an excellent portrayal as the very harsh prison guard who administers beatings. I half expected him to be the main villain as, “I TOOK HIS HEAD, AND RAPED HIS WOMAN BEFORE HIS BLOOD WAS EVEN COLD!”*
The movie revolves around an innocent man who is arrested for the murder of his wife and her lover and follows the lives of him and his fellow prisoners. In the end, he is locked up for a total of 19 years. The movie does a very good job of showing how it’s very hard for an ex-con to be rehabilitated into society after being out of it for so long. The scenes that show the librarian and one of the other cons trying to cope with life after release are very well done. In particular, if you thought the main character’s stay was a long time, you should see how long the librarian was in there. Care to hazard a guess?
Turns out he was in there more than 50 years. Bear in mind the film takes place from 1947 to 1966 and you’ll get some idea of just how much the world changed since he was locked up. This also applies to Freeman’s character, who is locked away for 40 years (and doesn’t seem to look it). It’s never even said what he was locked up for.
The directing work was well done, with the prison shots sufficiently darkened to give the right sort of atmosphere. Some of the shots (specifically, the long shot of Freeman walking towards a large oak tree) near the very end of the movie reminded me rather bizarrely of the covers of 19th century pulp fiction books, with explorers going through Darkest Africa.
The film is a very clever piece of work; it gets you interested in the story, keeps you watching and arguably gives you the closest thing to a sympathetic murderer protagonist that I have ever seen in a movie. It only fails that bit for two reasons, which are a) that Robbins’ character is completely innocent and b) that Morgan Freeman’s character is more of a supporting player than a protagonist. Comes very close though. And any film that does that even almost successfully is worth watching in my book.
*It’s Clancy Brown. Of course I’m going to use a Highlander quote.