Shawshank Redemption/A-,A
Wanrer/1994/142/ANA 1.85

     There is an old fashioned sense about The Shawshank Redemption, a feeling of timeless quality that pervades every aspect of the film. The ground it covers is not earth shattering. Itís a prison drama. An innocent man  convicted of a crime, thrown together with hardened criminals, butts heads with deviant inmates, sadistic guards, corrupt officials. Itís been done before, but this film bases its center on humanity and character in a way that redeems the movie from wallowing and ultimately drowning in a pool of the ordinary. The Shawshank Redemption captures the qualities of a dark fairy tale which delivers to its audience a refreshingly satisfying ending.

Andy and Red ponder reality. ©Warner

     Frank Darabontís first feature as director is also is first solo writing credit. Adapting Stephen King's novella, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, Darabont finds the right rhythms to make music of King. Darabont understands and commands the language of film. The filmmaking displays an elegance and patience that belies the freshman status of the director. The camera work and editing flow with the film and serve to support and story telling rather than shouting out their own merits. Ironically, Darabont's sophomore film, another prison drama based on a Stephen King short work, The Green Mile, will never hold a candle to this virgin effort.
    Thereís a consistent quality to the acting that must pay homage to the skill of the director in drawing out the best that this fine cast has to give. Tim Robbins continues to display enormous talent and versatility in the role of innocent man Andy Dufresne. Robbins portrays Andy with a perfect balance of coldness, innocence, strength and vulnerability. Itís a top-notch performance. Complimenting the screen work of Robbins is Morgan Freemanís Red. Freemanís fluid delivery of the extensive narration is paramount to the success of The Shawshank Redemption. The relationship between Red and Andy and the way it affects each man is beautifully acted and scripted. Each man helps the other to survive. Each actor stimulates the best from the other. James Whitmore has a fabulous supporting role as Brooks, the old con gathering dust in the prison library.
      All the elements fall into place on this excellent film. Roger Deakins provides eloquent support for director Darabont with flawless and restrained cinematography. Darabont and Deakins develop their own language of film with subtle use of camera movement. The score written by Thomas Newman, which weaves a haunting recurring theme, provides the proper measure of uplifting spirit to serve the story to best effect.
       Warner has done an outstanding job of preserving the beauty of this film on DVD. Resolution is extracted to the fullest. The punchy picture is perfectly balanced. Dark prison cells or the ice blue of the prison yard are rendered accurately. Shadow  is revealing in every circumstance. Color saturation is vibrant with no hint of smearing. The range of skin tones is outstanding. Though the ambient detail is not very aggressive the overall sound is nicely mixed in Dolby Digital 5:1 Surround.* Newmanís score is airy and maintains a fine balance with dialogue.

*Paulo Roberto Elias pointed out our initial mistake in citing 2.0 matrixed sound. Thanks Paulo.

 


The Feature Archive has articles ranging from Akira Kurosawa to Blonde Bimbos and John Ford.

Redeeming the Writer:redeemingthewriter.jpg (12488 bytes)
A Conversation with Frank Darabont



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