The Shawshank Redemption (Special Re-Release)

by Justin Stroud

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday September 24, 2004

Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.
Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.  

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the release of The Shawshank Redemption, and as with all films destined for historic greatness, it has lost none of it's power or sublime intensity. To commemorate this event, the studio has decided to re-release the film as a limited run to coincide with the release of a new 'special edition' DVD.

Stephen King and Frank Darabont's magnificently woven story follows the imprisonment of Andy DuFresne (Tim Robbins) in the stern environs of Maine's fictitious Shawshank Prison. Being that DuFresne was a strait-laced banker on the outside, life inside is a difficult transition; violence, brutality, hopelessness and despair vie to get the better of his soul and crush his spirit. Yet he survives; like Yakov Bok's 'The Fixer,' DuFresne raises himself above and beyond his plight until hope sets him free. One of the best messages of this film is that hope and freedom are infectious concepts: DuFresne spreads his shy, simple message throughout his small group of comerades with a demeanor of unassuming humilty.

Out of all the prison movies that make the effort to push home a message of 'liberation and triumph of the human spirit under insurmountable odds', this one is like a prize-fighter uppercutting the senses and right-hooking emotion; scene after scene leaves one in a state of reflection and awe. Under the masterful direction of Frank Darabont the camera drinks in the thick atmosphere of the film and washes it over the audience with wave after wave of intense visual storytelling while the film's magnificent score ebbs and flows like a tidal force. Roger Deakins' cinematography turns what would otherwise be just another set of walls and wire into a living, breathing member of the cast...although it should be said that Ohio's Mansfield Prison provides ample material for the film in the form of it's gothic gates and industrial-revolution-era smokestacks.

Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman work their leading roles with near-mythic quality; more than anything this brings to light their dedication to the craft of acting. Robbins' DuFresne is a quiet, somewhat naive upper-middle-class Everyman, and one can draw an easy parallel with Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo in his character (It's no accident that the story fits in Monte Cristo's mold as well.) Freeman's 'Red' is the cynical, jaded convict who can "get you anything on the inside," from toothbrushes to posters of Rita Hayworth. After seeing Shawshank again, I can't help but wonder why neither of the two leads actually won an Academy Award for their performances.

In closing, not enough good can be said about this film...it's lost nothing over the past ten years; if anything, it has gained the title of a soon-to-be-classic. If you never saw 'Shawshank' on the big screen, now's your chance. This film is anything but a disappointment.