My #8 All Time Favorite Film: The Shawshank Redemption
Of all of the films on my list, this is the one film, I really did not like the first time that I saw it. For a long time I never could understand why a lot of people were falling all over themselves trying to praise this film. It then dawned on me the reason was that I had never seen the entire film all the way yet.
By the time I had seen this film in its entirety it was being shown on TNT (USA TV channel) on a regular basis. I had a Saturday evening off and the film was on. I could not believe that after the film was over that I refused to see it at the movie theater back in 1994. At the time of this writing, this film is #1 on IMDB Top 250 movies.
So what changed my mind? Try seeing a film half way into and try not really wanting to sit down to see a film. Then when you finally see the film, that you have a such low expectations of, A great film emerged. I had to admit that I was wrong in my earlier passing of this film.
Now the story is very simple and if you haven't seen the film then please stop reading now and go rent or purchase the film on DVD.
In 1947, a young banker named Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is convicted of murdering his wife and her lover and is sentenced to two consecutive life sentences at Shawshank State Penitentiary in Maine. Also at the prison is inmate, Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman)who is once again rejected for parole after having served twenty years of his life sentence shortly before Andy's arrival. Andy gradually becomes acquainted with Red's circle of friends in the prison.
What I really liked about the first part of this film was that Andy was not like the other people in this jail. He knows that he is innocent and tries to keep that idea of hope in his mind.
What really started to make this film into a great one was the part where , while tarring the roof of Shawshank's license plate factory, Andy overhears the head prison guard, Captain Hadley, discussing the taxes he will have to pay on an inheritance he will soon receive from his dead brother. Although he nearly gets thrown off the roof, Andy's knowledge of making the guards inheritance tax-free soon earn him the respect of the guards. The only thing that Andy ask for is 3 beers each for his co-workers while they are putting tar on the roof. If only, for a few moments, the men feel free.
Andy is soon given his own little office inside the prison and is doing the warden paperwork when the warden devises a program to put prison inmates to work for local construction projects, exploiting the prisoners' free labor and putting money in the wardens person numerous accounts.
The scene where Andy explains to Red how he avoids a paper trail with all of the money coming into the prison, via the wardens' money working idea. Pay attention to the details of his creation of Randall Stevens. How he pulled it off even amazes Red.
The film ultimately turns when a young prisoner by the name of Tommy Williams, tells Red and Andy about an ex cellmate: Elmo Blatch, who had gleefully described murdering two people who fit the description of Andy's wife and her lover, and how her "hotshot banker" husband got blamed for it and how he got away with it.
When Andy goes to the warden, the warden fails to believe him and then throws Andy into solitary, while the warden set into motion of killing Tommy. Now Andy fells that he has lost everything. He tells Red that if he ever gets out of prison he should go to a specific hayfield near Buxton, Maine to find something that has been buried there. The following morning, Andy is missing from his cell. In a fury over Andy's disappearance, the warden throws one of Andy's rocks through a poster of Raquel Welch, revealing a large hole that Andy had used to escape.
Andy has used the Randall Stevens alias to walk away with over $400,000 of the wardens money. At one of the banks that Andy visits he ask the clerk to mail off a package for him. The package has the ledgers and deposit slips for all of the wardens illegal activities. When the police come to arrest the warden, he commits suicide.
The film ends with Red getting out of jail and going to Mexico to join Andy in a fish boat venture.
To me the films main story is "Hope." We see a man who should have never had gone to jail ultimately become a better man for it. A lot of other critics have also discussed the hope of this one man and how it helped to save some of the other prisoners. That's why the film work and becomes a great one in my opinion. Hope in man and in the end hope in himself.
Please see the film when you get the chance.