The Shawshank Redemption

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The Shawshank Redemption
ShawshankRedemptionMoviePoster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Frank Darabont
Produced by Niki Marvin
Screenplay by Frank Darabont
Based on Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption 
by Stephen King
Starring
Music by Thomas Newman
Cinematography Roger Deakins
Edited by Richard Francis-Bruce
Production
company
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • September 10, 1994 (1994-09-10) (Toronto)
  • September 23, 1994 (1994-09-23) (United States)
Running time 142 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $25 million[1]
Box office $28.3 million (North America)[1]

The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 epic American drama film written and directed by Frank Darabont and starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. It is ranked #1 in IMDb's "Top 250" list based on over a million votes (9.3 out of 10) and is considered one of the best movies of all time.

Adapted from the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, the film tells the story of Andy Dufresne, a banker who is sentenced to life in Shawshank State Prison for the murder of his wife and her lover despite his claims of innocence. During his time at the prison, he befriends a fellow inmate, Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding, and finds himself protected by the guards after the warden begins using him in his money laundering operation.

Despite being a box office flop (that barely recouped its budget), the film received multiple award nominations and outstanding reviews from critics for its acting, story, and realism. It has since been successful on cable television, VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray. It was included in the American Film Institute's 100 Years...100 Movies 10th Anniversary Edition.[2]

Plot[edit]

In 1947 Portland, Maine, banker Andy Dufresne is convicted of murdering his wife and her lover and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences at the fictional Shawshank State Penitentiary in rural Maine. Andy befriends contraband smuggler Ellis "Red" Redding, an inmate serving a life sentence. Red procures a rock hammer and later a large poster of Rita Hayworth for Andy. Working in the prison laundry, Andy is regularly assaulted by the "bull queer" gang "the Sisters" and their leader, Bogs.

In 1949, Andy overhears the brutal captain of the guards, Byron Hadley, complaining about being taxed on an inheritance and offers to help him legally shelter the money. After a vicious assault by the Sisters nearly kills Andy, Hadley beats Bogs severely. Bogs is sent to another prison and Andy is never attacked again. Warden Samuel Norton meets with Andy and reassigns him to the prison library to assist elderly inmate Brooks Hatlen. Andy's new job is a pretext for him to begin managing financial matters for the prison employees. As time passes, the warden begins using Andy to handle matters for a variety of people including guards from other prisons and the warden himself. Andy begins writing weekly letters to the state government for funds to improve the decaying library.

In 1954, Brooks is paroled, but cannot adjust to the outside world after fifty years in prison and hangs himself. Andy receives a library donation that includes a recording of The Marriage of Figaro. He plays an excerpt over the public address system, resulting in his receiving solitary confinement. After his release from solitary Andy explains that hope is what gets him through his time, a concept that Red dismisses. In 1963, Norton begins exploiting prison labor for public works, profiting by undercutting skilled labor costs and receiving kickbacks. He has Andy launder the money using the alias Randall Stephens.

In 1965, Tommy Williams is incarcerated for burglary. He joins Andy's and Red's circle of friends, and Andy helps him pass his G.E.D. exam. In 1966, Tommy reveals to Red and Andy that an inmate at another prison claimed responsibility for the murders Andy was convicted of, implying Andy's innocence. Andy approaches Warden Norton with this information, but the warden refuses to listen and sends Andy back to solitary when he mentions the money laundering. Norton then has Captain Hadley murder Tommy under the guise of an escape attempt. Andy refuses to continue the money laundering, but relents after Norton threatens to burn the library, remove Andy's protection from the guards, and move him out of his cell into worse conditions. Andy is released from solitary confinement after two months and tells Red of his dream of living in Zihuatanejo, a Mexican coastal town. Red feels Andy is being unrealistic, but promises Andy that if he is ever released he will visit a specific hayfield near Buxton, Maine and retrieve a package Andy buried there. Red becomes worried about Andy's state of mind, especially when he learns Andy asked another inmate to supply him with six feet of rope.

The next day at roll call the guards find Andy's cell empty. An irate Warden Norton throws a rock at the poster of Raquel Welch hanging on the wall, and the rock tears through the poster. Removing the poster, the warden discovers a tunnel that Andy dug with his rock hammer over the previous two decades. The previous night, Andy escaped through the tunnel and used the prison's sewage pipe to reach freedom. Andy escapes with Norton's suit, shoes, and the ledger containing details of the money laundering. While guards search for him the following morning, Andy poses as Randall Stephens and visits several banks to withdraw the laundered money. Finally, he mails the ledger and evidence of the corruption and murders at Shawshank to a local newspaper. The police arrive at Shawshank and take Hadley into custody, while Norton commits suicide to avoid arrest.

After serving 40 years, Red is finally paroled. He struggles to adapt to life outside prison and fears he never will. Remembering his promise to Andy, he visits Buxton and finds a cache containing money and a letter asking him to come to Zihuatanejo. Red violates his parole and travels to Fort Hancock, Texas to cross the border to Mexico, admitting he finally feels hope. On a beach in Zihuatanejo he finds Andy, and the two friends are happily reunited.

Cast[edit]

  • Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne. Kevin Costner, Tom Hanks and Brad Pitt were all offered the role but turned it down because of scheduling conflicts with Waterworld, Forrest Gump and Interview with the Vampire, respectively.
  • Morgan Freeman as Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding, Andy's best friend and the film's narrator; convicted of murder in 1927. Before Freeman was cast, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Paul Newman, and Robert Redford were each considered for the role. Although written as a middle-aged Irishman with greying red hair (as in the novella), Darabont cast Freeman for his authoritative presence and demeanor; he could not see anyone else as Red.[3] The short dialogue with Andy is a jest towards this casting decision, as when asked about the origin of his nickname, Red ironically replies, "Maybe it's because I'm Irish." Freeman once stated in an interview that Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption is his favorite book.[4]
  • Bob Gunton as Warden Samuel Norton. Although he is well versed in the Bible and presents himself as a pious, devout Christian and reform-minded administrator, his actions reveal him to be corrupt, ruthless, and remorseless.
  • William Sadler as Heywood, a member of Red's gang of long-serving convicts.
  • Clancy Brown as Capt. Byron Hadley, chief of the guards. Hadley is a sadistic guard who thinks nothing of delivering beatings to the inmates to keep them in line. When cast for the role, Brown declined the offer to study real-life prison guards as preparation for his role, because he felt that he would end up with too many inspirations to balance.[5]
  • Gil Bellows as Tommy Williams, a young convict whose experiences in a previous prison hold the truth about Andy's innocence.
  • Mark Rolston as Bogs Diamond, the head of "The Sisters" gang and a prison rapist.
  • James Whitmore as Brooks Hatlen, prison librarian/trustee and one of the oldest convicts at Shawshank, having been in prison since 1905. Darabont cast Whitmore because he was one of his favorite character actors.[3]
  • Jeffrey DeMunn as the prosecuting attorney in Andy Dufresne's trial.

Themes[edit]

Chicago Sun-Times film reviewer Roger Ebert suggested that The Shawshank Redemption is an allegory for maintaining one's feeling of self-worth when placed in a hopeless position. Andy Dufresne's integrity is an important theme in the story line, especially in prison, where integrity is lacking.[6]

Isaac M. Morehouse suggests that the film provides a great illustration of how characters can be free, even in prison, or unfree, even in freedom, based on one's outlook on life.[7]

The famous Shawshank Oak Tree, where Red finds the package left by Andy Dufresne

Casting[edit]

The role for Andy Dufresne was first offered to Tom Hanks and Kevin Costner, but they couldn't play the role because of issues with the dates. Later, Kevin Costner strongly regretted his decision on turning down the character of Andy Dufresne. Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Charlie Sheen and Nicolas Cage were considered for the part of Andy Dufresne, which finally went to Tim Robbins. For the role for Ellis Boyd ‘Red’ Redding, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Paul Newman or Robert Redford were considered, because in Stephen King's book, Red was an Irishman. It was meant to be played by a white actor in the first place, but director Frank Darabont wanted to cast Morgan Freeman as Red.

Frank Darabont wanted his favorite character actor James Whitmore to act in the film, so he asked him to do the role for Brooks. The role for the character Tommy Williams played by Gil Bellows was first going to Brad Pitt. Though this character had a small part, it was an important role in the film.[8]

Production[edit]

Frank Darabont secured the film adaptation rights from author Stephen King after impressing the author with his short film adaptation of The Woman in the Room in 1983. Although the two had become friends and maintained a pen-pal relationship, Darabont did not work with him until four years later in 1987, when he optioned to adapt Shawshank.[9] This is one of the more famous Dollar Deals made by King with aspiring filmmakers. Darabont later directed The Green Mile (1999), which was based on another work about a prison by Stephen King, and then followed that up with an adaptation of King's novella The Mist.

Rob Reiner, who had previously adapted another King novella, The Body, into the film Stand by Me (1986), offered $2.5 million in an attempt to write and direct Shawshank. He planned to cast Tom Cruise in the part of Andy and Harrison Ford as Red. Darabont seriously considered and liked Reiner's vision, but he ultimately decided it was his "chance to do something really great" by directing the film himself.[3]

Ohio State Reformatory, also known as the Mansfield Reformatory, served as the fictional Shawshank Prison

Though the film is set in Maine, the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio, served as the fictional Shawshank Prison. Though a large portion of the prison was torn down after filming, the main administration building and two cell blocks remained; the site was revisited later for filming parts of the film Air Force One.[10] Several of the interior shots of the specialized prison facilities, such as the admittance rooms and the warden's office, were shot in the reformatory.[10] The interior of the boarding room used by Brooks and Red was located in the administration building, though exterior shots were made elsewhere.[10] The prison site is a tourist attraction.[10] Internal scenes in the prison cellblocks were actually filmed on a soundstage built inside the nearby shuttered Westinghouse factory.[10] Downtown scenes were also filmed in Mansfield, as well as neighboring Ashland, Ohio. The oak tree under which Andy buries his letter to Red is located at 40°39′14″N 82°23′31″W / 40.65400°N 82.39195°W / 40.65400; -82.39195 (Shawshank tree), near Malabar Farm State Park, in Lucas, Ohio. The tree was heavily damaged by straight-line winds in a thunderstorm on July 29, 2011; officials were unsure if the tree would survive.[11] However, thanks to rally groups and inspections by forestry organizations, the tree was found to be alive and well and still stands to this day.[12]

Just as a prison in Ohio stood in for a fictional one in Maine, the beach scenes shown in the final minutes of the film that were meant to portray Zihuatanejo, Mexico were actually shot in the Caribbean on the island of St.Croix, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The beach at ‘Zihuatanejo’ is Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge, a two-mile crescent of sand just south of Frederiksted on the southwestern tip of the island. The refuge is a hatching ground for leatherback turtles, and open only at limited times (10am to 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays), and not at all during the breeding season. [13]

The beach at Zihuatanejo made famous by the film has recently been closed to the public due to a health warning as a result of high levels of pollution in the water.[14]

The film was dedicated to Allen Greene, an agent and a close personal friend of the film's director, Frank Darabont. Greene died shortly before the film was released due to complications of HIV/AIDS.[15]

Release[edit]

The Shawshank Redemption received a limited release on September 23, 1994 in North America. During its opening weekend, the film earned $727,000 from 33 theaters—an average of $22,040 per theater. It received a wide release on October 14, 1994, expanding to a total of 944 theaters to earn $2.4 million—an average of $2,545 per theater—finishing as the number 9 film of the weekend.[1] The film left theaters in late November 1994, after 10 weeks with an approximate total gross of $16 million.[16]

It was later re-released in February 1995, during the Oscar season, and made an additional $9 million.[16][not in citation given] In total the film made approximately $28.3 million in North American theaters, making it the number 51 highest grossing film of 1994 and the number 21 highest grossing R-rated film of 1994.[1]

Critical response[edit]

The Shawshank Redemption garnered widespread critical acclaim from critics and has a "certified fresh" score of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 64 reviews with an average rating of 8.2 out of 10. The critical consensus states "The Shawshank Redemption is an uplifting, deeply satisfying prison drama with sensitive direction and fine performances."[17] The film also has a score of 80 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 19 critics indicating "generally favorable reviews'.[18] The film has been critically acclaimed for depicting Jean-Paul Sartre's ideas about existentialism more fully than any other contemporary movie.[19]

Entertainment Weekly reviewer Owen Gleiberman praised the choice of scenery, writing that the "moss-dark, saturated images have a redolent sensuality" that makes the film very realistic.[20] While praising Morgan Freeman's acting and oratory skills as making Red appear real, Gleiberman felt that with the "laconic-good-guy, neo-Gary Cooper role, Tim Robbins is unable to make Andy connect with the audience."[20]

Accolades[edit]

The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards in 1994 without winning in any category: Best Picture, Best Actor for Freeman, Best Adapted Screenplay for Frank Darabont, Best Cinematography for Roger Deakins, Best Editing for Richard Francis-Bruce, Best Original Score for Thomas Newman, and Best Sound Mixing for Robert J. Litt, Elliot Tyson, Michael Herbick and Willie D. Burton.[21] It received two Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture for Freeman, and Best Screenplay for Darabont.[22] Robbins and Freeman were both nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role at the inaugural Screen Actors Guild Awards in 1995.[23] Darabont was nominated for a Directors Guild of America award in 1994 for Best Director for a feature film,[24] while cinematographer Roger Deakins won the American Society of Cinematographers award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography.[25]

Home media[edit]

Despite its disappointing box office return, Warner Bros. shipped 320,000 rental video copies throughout the United States, and it became one of the top rented films of 1995. The film's home viewing success was considered to be based on positive recommendations and repeat customers.[26] The film's Academy Award nominations enabled it to fare well in the video sales and cable TV viewings.[citation needed] In June 1997, TNT, an American cable network, showed the film for the first time. The film was the first feature in TNT's Saturday Night New Classics. A 2004 Sunday Times article suggested that TNT aired the film frequently from then on, about once every two months.[2] TV airings of the film accrued record breaking numbers.[26]

Music[edit]

The score was composed by Thomas Newman and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score in 1994, which was his first Oscar nomination. Much of the score consists of faint piano music, and pizzicato strings during the more active or humorous moments. The score's two main themes only occur two or three times. The prison theme, first heard in the beginning, is a four note ascending line in the bass, which is developed and reaches its climax when Andy is standing in the river in the rain. The second theme represents freedom, and is first heard when the inmates are sharing beer, feeling like 'free men.' This theme doesn't reoccur until the final credits, this time grander, with fuller orchestration. Like Hans Zimmer's score to the "Thin Red Line", the track is often played in trailers during their most dramatic moments. Zimmer himself has credited the score as the one "that has influenced everything the most" and that Newman opened up the harmonic palette of film scores. A central scene in the film features the "Letter Duet" ("Canzonetta sull'aria") from Mozart's The Marriage of FigaroAct 3 , K. 492,.

Also known, in Italian as, "Sull'aria...che soave zeffiretto" meaning a duettino, or a short duet. In the duettino, Countess Almaviva (a soprano) dictates to Susanna (also a soprano) the invitation to a tryst addressed to the countess' husband in a plot to expose his infidelity.

Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman) remarks in his voice-over narration: "I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. [...] I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful it can't be expressed in words, and it makes your heart ache because of it." The music highlights the irony in the movie as the opera characters are singing about a duplicitous love letter to expose infidelity. Both Red and Andy Dufresne are in prison for murdering their respectively unfaithful spouse.

Legacy[edit]

In 1998, Shawshank was not listed in AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies, but nine years later (2007), it was #72 on the revised list, outranking both Forrest Gump (#76) and Pulp Fiction (#94), the two most critically acclaimed movies from the year of Shawshank's release. In 1999, film critic Roger Ebert listed Shawshank on his "Great Movies" list.[27] It has been #1 on IMDb's user-generated Top 250 since 2008, when it surpassed The Godfather.[28]

Readers of Empire magazine voted the film as the best film of the 1990s, and it placed number 4 on Empire '​s list of "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time" in 2008.[26][29] In March 2011, the film was voted by BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 1Xtra listeners as their favorite film of all time.[30] Additionally, the Writers Guild of America included Frank Darabont's screenplay on its 101 Greatest Screenplays list, at number twenty-two.In an interview the film's supporting actor Morgan Freeman quotes “About everywhere you go, people say, ‘The Shawshank Redemption—greatest movie I ever saw’ ” and that these words “Just comes out of them”. Tim Robbins the lead actor says “I swear to God, all over the world—all over the world—wherever I go, there are people who say, ‘That movie changed my life’ ”. Even the world’s most famous former prisoner connected with the movie, according to Robbins: “When I met Nelson Mandela, he talked about loving Shawshank”.[31]

Year Award Nominee Ranking Ref.
1998 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies The Shawshank Redemption N/A [32]
2003 AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains Andy Dufresne (Hero) N/A [33]
Warden Samuel Norton (Villain) N/A [33]
2004 AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Duettino – Sull'Aria (from The Marriage of Figaro) N/A [34]
2005 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes "Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin'" N/A [35]
2005 AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Thomas Newman, The Shawshank Redemption N/A [36]
2006 AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers The Shawshank Redemption #23 [37]
2007 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) The Shawshank Redemption #72 [38]
2008 Empire's 500 Greatest Movies of All Time The Shawshank Redemption #4 [29]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "The Shawshank Redemption (1994)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 4, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Gilbey, Ryan (2004-09-26). "Film: Why are we still so captivated?". The Sunday Times (London). Archived from the original on 2010-04-13. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  3. ^ a b c Audio commentary with director and writer Frank Darabont
  4. ^ Head, Steve (11 May 2005). "10 QUESTIONS: MORGAN FREEMAN". IGN. 
  5. ^ Shawshank: The Redeeming Feature DVD Documentary
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (1994-09-23). "Review: The Shawshank Redemption". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 2010-04-13. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  7. ^ Morehouse, Isaac M. (2008-10-03). "Stop Worrying about the Election". Mises Daily. Ludwig von Mises Institute. Retrieved 2013-11-24. 
  8. ^ The Alternate cast of Shawshank Redemption
  9. ^ Rauzi, Robin (1993-12-01). "Doing 'Redemption' Time in a Former Prison". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-03-11. 
  10. ^ a b c d e "Cleveland: The Shawshank Redemption prison". A.V. Club. 2011-08-03. Retrieved 2011-08-03. 
  11. ^ Whitmire, Lou (July 29, 2011). "'Shawshank' tree ripped by high wind". Mansfield News Journal (Gannett Company). Retrieved August 5, 2011. 
  12. ^ Destries, Michael (July 30, 2012). "Good News: The Shawshank Oak Tree is Alive and Well". Ecorazzi. 
  13. ^ http://www.movie-locations.com/movies/s/shawshank.html#.VCMQJhaK1TI
  14. ^ Gordon, Sarah (April 9, 2014). "Public health warning closes Mexican beach made famous by Shawshank Redemption". Daily Mail. 
  15. ^ The Shawshank Redemption – Did you know?
  16. ^ a b "The Shawshank Redemption (1994) – Weekend Box Office Results – Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 2011-04-29. 
  17. ^ "The Shawshank Redemption". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2010-08-19. 
  18. ^ "The Shawshank Redemption". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2010-08-19. 
  19. ^ This claim is made by Alexander Hooke in issue 102 of Philosophy Now, accessible here (link, accessed 3rd June 2014.
  20. ^ a b Gleiberman, Owen (1994-09-23). "The Shawshank Redemption". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2010-05-15. 
  21. ^ "The 67th Academy Awards (1995) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. 
  22. ^ "THE 52ND ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS (1995)". Golden Globes. Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved September 30, 2012. 
  23. ^ "The Inaugural Screen Actors Guild Awards". Screen Actors Guild Awards. SAG-AFTRA. 1995. Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  24. ^ Dutka, Elaine (January 24, 1995). "DGA Nods: What's It Mean for the Oscars? : Movies: The surprising nominations of Frank Darabont ("Shawshank Redemption") and Mike Newell ("Four Weddings and a Funeral") may throw a twist into the Academy Awards". Los Angeles Times (Tribune Company). Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  25. ^ "9th Annual ASC Awards – 1994". American Society of Cinematographers Awards (American Society of Cinematographers). 1994. Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  26. ^ a b c Kermode, Mark (August 22, 2004). "Hope springs eternal". The Guardian. Retrieved September 30, 2012. 
  27. ^ Ebert, Roger (1999-10-17). "Great Movies: The Shawshank Redemption". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 2010-04-13. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  28. ^ Monaco, Paul (May 5, 2010). A History of American Movies: A Film-by-Film Look at the Art, Craft, and Business of Cinema. Scarecrow Press. p. 286. ISBN 978-0810874343. Retrieved June 2, 2013. 
  29. ^ a b "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time". Empire. Bauer Consumer Media. 2008. Retrieved September 30, 2011. 
  30. ^ "Radio 1 Movies Blog". BBC. Retrieved 2011-04-29. 
  31. ^ Shawshank Redemption anniversary story
  32. ^ "America's Greatest Movies". AFI. Retrieved July 1, 2013. 
  33. ^ a b "AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains". AFI. Retrieved July 1, 2013. 
  34. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs". AFI. Retrieved July 1, 2013. 
  35. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes". AFI. Retrieved July 1, 2013. 
  36. ^ "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores". AFI. Retrieved July 1, 2013. 
  37. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers". AFI. Retrieved July 1, 2013. 
  38. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies -- 10th Anniversary Edition". AFI. Retrieved July 1, 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]