The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

“Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

The immortal words of Morgan Freeman, well, actually they’re the words of director/screen-writer Frank Darabont; and come to think of it, they may have originated in the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption. I don’t know, does anybody know? It’s not important. What is important, is the sentiment.

For the past several weeks I have been absent from this blog, because I had planned to dedicate myself to a more physical, tangible goal. In order to reach this goal, I had to put writing aside, temporarily. But I’m back now, so let’s talk about this movie!

As I’ve already stealthfully (first post back and I’m already coining new words) mentioned, The Shawshank Redemption is based upon a Stephen King novella whose title is close, but not quite the same. It tells the tale of Andy Dufresne (pronounced Doo-frain, not Doo-Fres-Knee), an innocent man imprisoned in one of the hardest prisons in the state of Maine. While there he strikes up a friendship with the resourceful “Red” played by a grinning Morgan Freeman. There’s a one-off joke about his nickname coming from his Irish heritage, it works in the story because the character truly is an Irishman, it falls flat in the film.

That is, however, the first and last moment to fall flat. Some may accuse this movie of being overly cheesy, with its hopeful take on prison life, but isn’t that the point? Andy Dufresne represents the irascible bit of hope in all of us. And he’s played to quiet, introspective perfection by a young Tim Robbins. Even as the film progresses along with Andy’s age, he never loses his boyish charm.

The measure of any good movie, however, is its antagonist. You can’t have a good flick without one. Where would Batman be without Joker, The Bride without Bill, or Arthur Kriticos without his uncle Cyrus? And so it is that Shawshank has its Warden Norton. A slimy, sly sonofabitch, Norton is a stereotypical villain that you love to hate. Well…no, you just hate him. There are no redeeming qualities to this antagonist, and seeing him get his just desserts is all the more satisfying for it.

But after you vanquish the dragon, what then? Our narrator is still locked up in Shawshank  prison, even if our hero has made a daring escape (or has he? read on…). Changing from one hard-ass warden to another hard-ass warden is not exactly a happy ending, especially not for a film whose central theme is “Hope Springs Eternal.”

King and Darabont knew this, however, they’re pros, so they gave us quite the happy ending: “Red” is paroled, locates Andy’s super secret stash of money and even remembers the name of the obscure little Mexican village he said he would probably bed down in. It’s there that he locates our hero mid-boat-sanding and a happy reunion is had by all!

But how likely is all of that? How much more likely is that the character of “Red” is writing his memoirs and remembers the story about some banker who tried to crawl away from the prison in the sewer pipes, but died after choking on a pound of shit? But this story doesn’t mesh with his theme of “Hope Springs Eternal” so he changes the ending to a happily-ever-after style fairy tale. Much more realistic, and much more fun to think about.

So if you ask me, The Shawshank Redemption is one of the biggest mind-fuck movies of all time!

I’ve actually forgotten what I was talking about, I’m just so excited to be writing these reviews again, for all of you good people! There’s more to come, I promise that. I may even get around to Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings sometime real soon, as promised.

Until then, read on, have a great day/evening/weekend and don’t forget to share your opinion!

M.R.Scully

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