The Shawshank Redemption

Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” — Andy Dufresne

Looking back at the circumstances around the release of The Shawshank Redemption, you might see the similarities between the story of its main character and the movie’s journey towards becoming a beloved movie of audiences worldwide.

There were several reasons behind the initial failure of this inspiring, slow-burning prison break story. Firstly, it was released at an unfortunate time, having to compete with such box office hits as Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump. Next, even though the initial impressions of the critics and the public were very positive, the movie received a negative review from the Los Angeles Times, which drove the audiences away from the theatres. Finally, the movie’s title wasn’t memorable nor marketable, and prison stories were just… not that popular at the time. It was the mid-90s. Everyone was all about fast-paced action flicks.

So how did an R-rated film about a banker sentenced to life for murders he did not commit, set in a prison where corruption, cruelty, and rape were the routine, laced with multiple subplots that take place over nearly 20 years, win the audience’s favor with such a wave that it overtook The Godfather on the IMDb’s list of Top 250 movies of all time, and stayed in that spot since 2008?

It was because of hope.

Placing a risky bet on a box-office bomb, Warner Home Video shipped 320,000 rental video copies of The Shawshank Redemption. This turned out to be a smart move since this movie went on to become one of the top rented movies in the United States. Every repeated viewing revealed new aspects of this deep and touching story about friendship, freedom, sin and – yes – redemption. Besides, who could resist the graceful and touching narration of Morgan Freeman as Ellis “Red” Redding, a contraband smuggler and friend of Andy Dufresne, and “the only guilty man in Shawshank”?

Andy Dufresne, the main character of the movie, portrayed by Tim Robbins, enters Shawshank as an innocent man. Even as he loses that innocence when he becomes a part of a money laundering scheme, we witness his intense desire for freedom alongside Red, who sees it as an aura that feels like it could protect Andy from the effects of prison life. Andy is patient, persistent, intelligent and subtle, and we can’t help admiring him the same way Red does as we watch him transform Shawshank with culture and education, and become an almost Christ-like figure and definitely a legend among the inmates.

Written and directed by Frank Darabont as an adaptation of Stephen King’s novella “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”, this movie is a timeless classic that the audiences will always relate to. Many of us feel imprisoned by our circumstances at some point in our lives. We are chained by guilt and shame. We get thrown out of our comfort zones. We are robbed of our dignity and our identities. And sadly, some of us never make it to the other side. Some of us never get to reach that warm Pacific that has no memory. But it is important we try.

That said, you might want to rewatch this movie a few times so that all of its layers and nuances seep into your skin, if you haven’t done that by now. The cinematography flows effortlessly between the contrasting images of a dark, shadowy prison patterned with routine and light-filled glimpses of normal life that Andy sneaks into Shawshank at every opportunity. The score is emotional but subtle, so it doesn’t take away from the impact of the movie. The acting is superb, with many critics specifically praising the character of Morgan Freeman and wishing it had a bigger role in the plot.

The Shawshank Redemption teaches us to treat ourselves with kindness, no matter who we are. It shows us that even an impossible task can be done with perseverance and tenacity. Yes, we could argue that it shows criminals in an overly positive light, but… aren’t they human, too? And as human beings, do they not deserve a right to redemption?

As long as they consciously choose it, fight for it and endure the rocky road towards it, we believe they absolutely do.

IMDb 4.65 /5
4.65 out of 5
Rotten Tomatoes 4.55 /5
4.55 out of 5
Rogue Cinema 5 /5
5 out of 5

Combined average

4.73out of 5

4.73 out of 5
Category Action