Accountant Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is sent to prison in the Forties for the murder of his unfaithful wife and her lover, despite protesting his innocence. He slowly comes to terms with the injustices of the corrupt prison system and quietly inspires some of his fellow prison inmates to have a more positive outlook on life. Meanwhile, the Governor of the prison discovers Dufresne's book-keeping talents and recruits him to do a spot of creative accountancy. Fellow inmate, ageing gangster 'Red' (Morgan Freeman), uses his connections to take care of Dufresne's material needs, and narrates the story of his friend's term in jail through to the late Sixties.
When The Shawshank Redemption was released in 1994, some critics complained that this popular prison drama was too long (142 minutes) to sustain its plot. Those complaints miss the point, because the passage of time is crucial to this story about patience, the squeaky wheels of justice and the growth of a life-long friendship. Only when the film reaches its final, emotionally satisfying scene do you fully understand why writer-director Frank Darabont (adapting a novella by Stephen King) allows the story to unfold at its necessary pace.
Tim Robbins plays a banker named Andy who is sent to Shawshank Prison on a murder charge, but as he gets to know a life-term prisoner named Red (Morgan Freeman), we soon realise his claims of innocence are credible. We also realise that Andy's calm, quiet exterior hides a great reserve of patience and fortitude, and Red comes to admire this mild-mannered man who first struck him as weak and unfit for prison life. So it is that The Shawshank Redemption builds considerable impact as a prison drama that defies the conventions of the genre (violence, brutality, riots) to illustrate its theme of faith, friendship and survival. Nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Actor and Screenplay, it's a remarkable film (which many movie lovers count among their all-time favourites) that signalled the arrival of a promising new filmmaker. --Jeff Shannon
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