When it was released in 1994, The Shawshank Redemption, based on a Stephen King short story, was critically applauded, but cinema-goers seemed to have no interest in paying to see it. It was one of the larger Hollywood commercial flops, and many thought it would be consigned to the history books as a film that was not worth making. However thanks to the hard work of a few film critics and movie professionals, as well as a fantastic performance on the increasingly popular DVD (and later Blu-Ray) format, the film has experienced something of a renaissance, and is now considered by many to be one of the best films ever made.
Set in the eponymous Shawshank Prison in the late 1940s, The Shawshank Redemption charts the life of inmate Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), who is convicted of the murder of his wife and her lover and sentenced to life imprisonment. Whilst there, he meets and befriends the prison contraband dealer Red (Morgan Freeman) and the two men try to come to terms with life behind bars, and their lack of freedom over the course of a twenty year period.
The Shawshank Redemption has a fantastic sense of location and period, with the prison brought to life from an opening sweep over its grounds to the close-ups of cells adding to a claustrophobic feel. The characters seem to ebb and flow in mood, which suits the passage of time, as they get older and wiser to the experiences within the walls of Shawshank. The action is broken down into sections as the men have their lives compartmentalised. This direction drags the audience into living a these seemingly hopeless experiences alongside the characters, which just makes the small moments of hope and rebellion all the more sweet and poignant.
Frank Darabont, the director of The Shawshank Redemption has created an absolute masterpiece of film-making. Everything from the lighting, to the art direction, the casting, the score and the camera shots is just pitch-perfect from beginning to end. If there was a complaint to make it is the ending is a touch baggy and protracted. But in reality, by the time you reach it, you’re willing to forgive because you love the characters so much, that you almost never want it to end.
Many will claim that The Shawshank Redemption is the best film ever made, and it is difficult to argue against it, however regardless of whose opinion you trust, everyone should watch this film at least once in their lives just to experience the rollercoaster of emotions involved. This is epic, small-scene, big budget fare that has to be seen to be believed. The Shawshank Redemption: One of the finest examples of film-making ever created.