The Shawshank Redemption

Review by Gary Couzens

At this time of year, the cinema trade press (Variety, Screen International etc) carry large adverts touting certain films for Oscar consideration. In this particular case, watch them play down the fact that it's a Stephen King adaptation, as that would lead one to expect a horror film.

The Shawshank Redemption (based on the Different Seasons novella, ‘Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption’) is not a horror film. In 1946, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is sentenced to life for the murder of his wife. Sent to the brutal Shawshank prison, he approaches the local ‘fixer’, Red (Morgan Freeman) with a strange request: a rock hammer and a poster of Rita Hayworth…

The Shawshank Redemption is an excellent if overlong film which tells an absorbing story of survival against the odds. It would be unfair to tell too much of the plot, but the surprise ending is well prepared through an accumulation of insignificant-seeming details. First-time feature director Frank Darabont (he previously directed two TV movies and had a hand in the scripts for The Fly II, The Blob and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein) basically lets a good story tell itself, with the help of a top-notch cast and crew. However, at its present length (141 minutes) it’s definitely in need of trimming: the film’s epilogue should really have been got over with in five minutes instead of the fifteen it actually takes. Well worth seeing all the same.

This review originally appeared in the January/February 1995 issue of the BFS Newsletter (Vol. 19, No. 1).