The Shawshank Redemption Film Review

It takes another eye-catching tabloid headline to persuade my reluctance from taking on hard topics to write (remember “Namatay sa Sex” that inspired me to write Dying Young about death which was later published on the Inquirer column Youngblood?). This time around an Inquirer-related tabloid posted news regarding a tree split in half by storm earlier this month. Under normal circumstances a sick or fallen tree has no earthly business in a newspaper, even inside the cheapest tabloid. That tree happens to be an important element in a story that answers the question: What is your favorite movie of all time?

The girl I met in the bus might have answered “Avatar”. My gamhanan English teacher would reckon it is “The Dark Knight”. And my part pare bro buddies here in the office are likely to confess it is this year’s surprise hit “Source Code”. True enough, those are really good movies and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they land on my Top 10 list of favorite movies if ever I make one. But no, those are not my all-time favorite movie, not even the last Harry Potter movie. Let the drum roll, turn the lights off, open the curtains and flash the spotlight to…

The Shawshank Redemption.

 The Shawshank what!? Indeed most people I know haven’t heard of this movie, which is quite depressing information to live with. Tsk tsk tsk. It is a 1994 movie directed by Frank Darabont based on the novella titled Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption written by Stephen King, the king of horror books that more often than not found their way to the big screen. But I tell you Shawshank is not a horror movie. It garnered 7 Oscar nominations but lost most of them to that year’s big winner Forrest Gump in what would be Tom Hanks’ greatest performance of his career. But this Shawshank would later on have its mark as the better classic films that came out of 1994 edging Forrest Gump and Quintin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

For months, no, for two years I’ve been completely unsure if ever I could pull off a respectable review or tribute for the film. I am not confident writing about this topic because I feel like this movie deserves better treatment on describing how good it is.

Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins.

Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins.

The story begins with the trial of a young banker, Andy Dufrense, victimized by circumstantial evidence, resulting in a conviction for the murder of his wife and her lover. After a quick conviction, Andy finds himself serving a life sentence at Shawshank prison, with no hope of parole. He exists in this prison only in appearance, keeping his mind free from the drab walls around him. His ability to do this results in the gaining of respect from his fellow inmates, but most of all from Ellis Redding (portrayed by Morgan Freeman). Ellis, commonly referred to as Red, finds gainful use of his entrepreneurial spirit within the drab walls of Shawshank by dealing in contraband and commodities rare to the confines of prison. Andy’s demeanor and undeniable sense of hope causes Red to take a deeper look at himself, and the world around him. Andy proves to Red and the other inmates that in the conventional walls of Shawshank prison convention will find no home in his lifestyle.

–          excerpt from

I have to cut-short telling about the plot, otherwise I’ll be spoiling you.

The main theme of the film tell us about a man’s long yet captivating journey towards redemption and freedom which every one of us yearns for. It is a moving story that captures the human spirit’s longing to be free to believe, to dream, and maintain one’s sense of pride and dignity even if for a hardened criminal. The film also has given a very solid portrayal of such abstract subject about hope, “That there are things in this world not carved out of gray stone. That there’s a small place inside of us they can never lock away, and that place is called hope.”

The movie did not find the audience at the cinema but later on in VHS and VCD home video.

I was very fascinated by the story the first time I saw it. It didn’t take long before the initial shock of reading Stephen King’s name as the mastermind of the story. It is quite hard to believe a master writer of horror would depart completely from his comfort zone to write and inspire one of the greatest stories that came out ofHollywood, not to scare the hell out of the audience but to inspire them. I bought the original novella inside a book containing a collection of the author’s short stories and novellas.

The acting of Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman was good as the main characters. But it is the portrayal of the minor roles has undoubtedly created a strong sense of realism and emotional struggle. The production team was also sensational in staging the prison backdrop that effectively resonates the feeling of isolation and dread. But all the praises and accolades of the film is rightfully given to the man behind the director’s chair, Frank Darabont, who also did a fantastic job in translating King’s novella into a screenplay in what could be one of the greatest book-to-film adaptation, a rare and runaway example where the film is actually better the book. Watching the film for the nth time always makes one wonder it is Frank Darabont’s debut film, and a classic masterpiece at that both as a writer and a director.

One of the most unforgettable moments I have with The Shawshank Redemption movie happen during my review days in Manila exactly two years ago. It was after our first pre-board examination for CPAR (our review center in Sampaloc), the  exam was hellish in nature, with long murderous problems under intense time pressure which sucked all the brain juices we had that terrible weekend. We all felt like we’ll never see the light again, that all was lost before we even took the real CPA board examination. But then came my Morgan Freeman DVD collection. We watched Shawshank and after watching the movie right to the end we felt rejuvenated and filled with hope as if nothing happens. All of us who watched the movie inside that sinehan/dormitory room passed the board exam 2 months later. That’s what the Shawshank effect had on us.

Back to the tree that split in to half, what does that got to do with that movie. Well that was where the defining moment of the film took place when everything is supposed to end on their glorious heartwarming finale.

 “There’s  a long rock wall with a big oak tree find that spot. It’s where I asked my wife to marry me. We’d gone for a picnic. We made love under that tree. I asked and she said yes. Promise me, Red. If you ever get out, find that spot.  In the base of that wall you’ll find a rock that has no earthly business in a Maine hayfield. A piece of black volcanic glass. You’ll find something buried under it I want you to have.”

That’s the tree Andy was talking about and that guy is Morgan Freeman.

 What’s underneath that tree.. You’ll just have to pry up that rock and see. If you ever felt cold and lost in aspiration just let it go and watch this movie.

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3 thoughts on “The Shawshank Redemption Film Review

  1. […] The Shawshank Redemption Film Review ( […]

  2. One of my favourite films of all time! One that I can watch over and over again.

    The relationship between Red and Andy is one of cinema’s greatest in my opinion!

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