Charged with two consecutive life terms, innocent Andy Dufresne enters Shawshank prison where he is faced with innocent inmates, criminal staff, and a gruesome 19 years.
Andy (Tim Robbins) meets Ellis “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman) a few months after he arrives at Shawshank. Red, who has been at Shawshank for 20 years of a life sentence, introduces Andy to prison life and serves as his advisor on the dos and don’ts of Shawshank.
Eventually, Andy begins to fit in, impressing the guards with skills from his pre-prison banking career; allowing Andy to gain respect and protection throughout the prison. Andy even works as a “financial advisor” for the warden (Bob Gunton). Unexpectedly, in his time at Shawshank, Andy commits more crime than he ever did in his previous life. He points this out by saying, “You know, the funny thing is, on the outside I was an honest man, straight as an arrow, I had to come to prison to be a crook.”
Frank Darabont executed the film in a clever manner. He included the crime/drama aspect while also providing room for comedy and warmth. Although the film is a drama and the characters are murderers and thieves, Darabont weaves humor and emotion into the film. Allowing the audience to grow with Andy and Red’s friendship, learn about the loss of those who have lost everything, and experience the love of people who are thought to be heartless. The mystery of the characters allows for curiosity among the audience and an unpredictable ending.
Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman were at their prime as these characters. Robbins captured the essence of Andy’s aloof, dreary personality and form. At the beginning of the movie, we develop an impression of Andy: cold, remorse, lonely. Even Red (Freeman) acknowledges this impression by stating “I must admit I didn’t think much of Andy first time I laid eyes on him; looked like a stiff breeze would blow him over.” Morgan Freeman was able to depict Red’s outgoing, curious character. As the narrator, we learn more about Red, we get to see how his time in Shawshank has ultimately affected him. He expresses his regret for his actions, but he also brings up his dependence on Shawshank. Many of the characters, especially those who have been in Shawshank for many years, form a dependence on it. When they are sent back into the world, they are unable to find their place and do not stay long enough to figure it out.
The cinematography in the movie strives to keep your eyes focused on what is happening and doesn’t allow you to stray from the screen. The lack of color and brightness in the movie perfectly elucidates the feeling of being in a prison. Having the film be narrated by the other lead role, Red, instead of the Protagonist, Andy, allowed for an enticing movie and a more shocking ending. The film focuses on Andy just enough for the audience to know that Andy is the main character of the film. However, the choice to have Red as the narrator enables the audience to have a different portrayal of Andy. By being told from another person’s point of view, the audience understands the impression Andy gives to others. It also allows for limited insight to Andy’s thoughts, the audience only knows of Andy what his body language and speech show to others, increasing their curiosity. In reality, Red is the embodiment of the audience in their thoughts and curiosity throughout the movie.
In The Shawshank Redemption, mystery and emotion coincide to create the movie of the century. It delivers a new meaning of suffering and sacrifices in the lowest point of life; and how one can use hope to pull through the depths of Shawshank.