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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Great Movie: The Shawshank Redemption

Sometimes you come across a movie that is really good, slow, but good. This movie is an adaption of the novel 'Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption' by Stephen King. The movie was an excellent example of story-telling, and was a movie that delineated that hope never dies. It had great performances by Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, and the interactions between them was made the storyline such an elegant one. The movie did not set the box office on fire, but over the years, the direction and the storytelling has developed a cult following for this movie that has only made it grow in popularity and a strong following in the DVD market. One criticism of this movie has been the length of the movie (142 minutes), but even for that, the pace at which the story has been developed and presented seems just right. Many critics have nominated this movie to be among the list of top best movies of all time.

The Shawshank Redemption

The movie essentially has 2 strong characters, with Tim Robbins playing the role of 'Andy Dufresne' and Morgan Freeman as 'Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding'. Tim Robbins plays the role of a banker whose wife and lover was killed and he is convicted on the basis of circumstantial evidence even while professing his innocence. He is sentenced to 2 consecutive life sentences in the notorious (and harsh) Shawshank prison in Maine. His introduction to prison life is unsettling, with getting a de-lousing and strong speeches from the Warden Samuel Norton and Chief Prison Guard Captain Byron Hadley. He also witnesses a prisoner breaking down and causing a major disturbance, leading to Captain Hadley beating the prisoner brutally (and the prisoner dying from these wounds later).
In the meantime, Red has been denied parole by the parole board, and in the prison yard, watches the arrival of new prisoners including Tim. Andy slowly develops friends in the prison and eventually becomes friends with Red himself, and Red has a reputation for being able to get things inside the prison. Andy asks for and gets a rock hammer, to be able to pursue him hobby of rock collecting. Andy is assigned to the prison laundry, and in one of the seamier sides of the prison, he is continually harassed by a group of inmates known as 'The Sisters'. They regularly harass and rape him.
And then Andy's luck changes, with Captain Hadley getting to know about his financial skills, and he wants Andy to setup a tax shelter for him. He starts to get some preferential treatment and gets assigned to a lighter service of the prison library. Andy's fame as a financial help spreads and he is now advising a number of other prisoners, guards and even the Warden. He is also allowed to setup his own team, and he selects Red to be on the team. In a reminder of the painful life of a ex-con, an old prisoner who has been granted parole (but has been in jail for so long that he no longer recognizes life outside the prison) has major difficulties in adjusting to life outside the prison, and eventually commits suicide.
The changed fortune of Andy is much clearer now when he is again assaulted by 'The Sisters', but now the others beat up these leader of this group so badly that Andy is never threatened again. Things keep on progressing, and the Warden now has Andy to setup a new identity so that the Warden can benefit from the work that he is making the prisoners do. Things change when a new prisoner, Tommy joins and mentions that he knows of facts that would prove that Andy was innocent. The Warden is fearful of Andy getting out and revealing his financial planning, and shows his truly evil nature. He gets Captain Hadley to kill Tommy and pushes Andy into solitary confinement for 2 months, at the end of which Andy emerges a seemingly broken man.
And this is where the story finally gets revealed. Andy vanishes, having escaped from the prison after digging a tunnel for 19 years. He takes the identity of the man he had created for the warden, and gets the Warden and Captain implicated for their scam He eventually goes to Mexico where Red joins him once he is freed on parole.

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