4. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: The Shawshank Redemption

December 4, 2018

Director: Frank Darabont
Screenplay: Frank Darabont
Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown, Gil Bellows, James Whitmore
Runtime: 142Minutes


Original UK Release: 1994




The Shawshank Redemption is a masterpiece; there’s no sole secret as to why the film works as well as it does, it’s just a combination of distinguished ability, note-perfect performances and some compelling, genuinely involving storytelling.


This might be Frank Darabont’s directorial/writing debut for a feature, yet it’s impossibly well crafted with restraint, and a classical eye for composition and narrative structure – including an unforgettably heartbreaking diversion in which we follow an elderly inmate in his life on the outside. His confidence in camera control, seen through some of Roger Deakins’ best work, display immaculate frames of pastel brilliance and saturated colours.


The cast is outstanding. Morgan Freeman’s ‘Red’ is the omnipresent voice of Shawshank, and a part of its very identity. A voice that finds comfort in a place so barren, which nurtures the hope that carries its characters through nearly 20 years of the film’s narrative, keeping it alive even as the film moves towards its darker chapters.


His chemistry with Robbins is palpable and real, Robbin’s Andy Dufresne is a spellbinding literary figure of cryptic, layered intent and intellect, supported by the likes of William Sadler, Gil Bellows and James Whitmore as the tragically lost Brooks.


The antagonists are well-rounded and motivated, from Bob Gunton’s despicable Warden Norton to Clancy Brown’s Capt. Hadley. While Thomas Newman’s irrefutably moving and dramatic score cuts deep into the roots of its dramatic mass, spilling over into every portion of the piece.


The main reason why The Shawshank Redemption has endured and enthralled people for so long might be because of its overpowering theme of hope; that a place as desolate as Shawshank might operate as an existential framework for our own desires to escape from the lives we find ourselves trapped in, and our own aspirations and expectations for the future.

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