The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994, USA)

The Shawshank Redemption, Frank Darabont's 1994 adaptation of Stephen King's 1982 novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, was not a guaranteed hit when it arrived on the scene. At this point, King was still largely known as a writer of horror, and his prowess as a dramatic powerhouse was still unknown. While the film did receive several nods at the Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Morgan Freeman, it did not win anything. The film did not perform well at the box office, but in the 1990s, it was still possible for a film to gain word-of-mouth via VHS rentals and cable reruns. The film was a staple on Turner networks in the US in the 1990s, after the purchase of Castle Rock by Turner Broadcasting System, and like most people, we here discovered the film on cable television. It was hard not to see the film on TV at the time.

Does the film hold up? As a piece of old-fashioned Hollywood hokum, there is a reason why the film works. Darabont was able to channel Frank Capra to tell a story of personal redemption that was set out to evoke the model of classical Hollywood. Comparing this film to Forrest GumpShawshank is a much better slice of Hollywood corn. It is easy to understand the enduring fan appreciation for the film, as it can cut through audiences beyond nation and beyond background. This is due in no small part to the subtle details - Roger Deakins' gorgeous cinematography, the iconic music by Thomas Newman, and many other details. The performances are perhaps the most heralded, and for good reason. The onscreen duo of Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins has become iconic and for good reason, even though they do not appear so often in the film in reality.



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