Adapted from the Stephen King novel, The Shawshank Redemption tells the story of life in prison for Andy Dufresne (Tim Robins) who was charged with double murder and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. One for each victim. Andy is innocent, but that doesn’t make a bit of difference in Shawshank. “You’re gonna fit right in. Everyone in here is innocent, you know that?” the inmates joke.
Inside, Red (Morgan Freeman) has been in prison for twenty years already. He’s the guy people go to when they want something smuggled in; cigarettes, posters, playing cards with naked ladies on them, you name it. He also narrates the film, helping the viewer understand how Shawshank works and how people see Andy. “I could see why some of the boys took him for snobby. He had a quiet way about him, a walk and a talk that just wasn’t normal around here. He strolled, like a man in a park without a care or a worry in the world, like he had on an invisible coat that would shield him from this place.”
Andy runs into troubles at Shawshank. For a while he’s ritually beaten and tormented by a gang called The Sisters. He’s also subject to random inspections where the guards flip his cell upside down. But through it all, Andy stays strong and starts seizing opportunities. When he learns about the prison library, run by old lovable Brooks (James Whitmore), he starts writing letters to Congressmen to get more books. With Andy’s previous work with banks, he helps the gards with their taxes and even gets his friends to help, breaking the mundane rituals of prison life for a while.
The story grabs our attention right away and gets more interesting as it goes with more depth to Andy. There’s more to lose, more to gain, a dream of going to Mexico and a mysterious treasure in a Maine hayfield. But after being sentenced to “the hole” we’re afraid that our good guy Andy is nearing his breaking point.
In my opinion, the ending, after the main action has passed just seems too long. We see familiar images, understand what’s going on, only a few things really need to happen and it just feel like it needs to end one wary or the other (Freeman narrating a little faster would be a start). And quickly if you please, I need to piss too, and I hate to ask the film for permission. Really, it could have been wrapped up in one of those cheesy montages without leaving anything out, but it just wouldn’t feel right.
“Get busy living, or get busy dying.”