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Saturday, May 7, 2016

THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION -- Movie Review by Porfle

For his debut feature film, Frank Darabont burst out of the starting gate with a vengeance by directing one of the most beloved American classics of modern film as well as writing the screenplay.

When I first heard that a movie was being made from Stephen King's novella "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" I figured that the short, somewhat sketchy story would have to be heavily padded out to make an entire feature. Darabont proved otherwise by augmenting King's prison yarn in ways that were a deeply satisfying enhancement to the original material, and then turning THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994) into an engrossing, visually and emotionally rich cinematic experience that few who have seen it will ever forget.

The story involves a brilliant young banker named Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) unjustly convicted and sentenced to life for the murder of his wife and her lover. Aging lifer Red (Morgan Freeman) gradually forms a grudging respect for Andy due to his quiet perserverance and refusal to be cowed or dehumanized by the prison system, which is embodied by a hypocritical warden (Bob Gunton as Warden Norton) and the brutally sadistic guard Capt. Hadley (Clancy Brown).

Andy becomes an invaluable resource to his jailers when he starts doing their tax returns for them and helping the warden launder all the money he's skimming from various illegal endeavors. But whenever he steps out of line by asserting his basic humanity, he's slapped down hard. This comes to a head when a new inmate (Gil Bellows) who may have information about the true killer of Andy's wife is murdered by the warden and Hadley.

After this, it appears as though Andy, who has become something of a heroic inspiration to his fellow convicts, has finally been beaten down and demoralized. There even comes a point in which they and we fear he's on the verge of suicide.

But the beleagered and embittered Andy Dufresne has a trump card up his sleeve, one which he's been holding for several years until just the right time to play it. And when he does, it leads to one of cinema's most dazzling and satisfying examples of comeuppance and righteous revenge, not to mention the exhilarating redemption promised by the title.

Proving himself a consummate screen artist, Darabont presents this story with the richest period production design and cinematography that the viewer could wish for and populating it with a cast filled with great A-list and character actors, each of whom seems inspired by his role.

Robbins is keenly attuned to what makes Andy Dufresne tick, letting us see both the sharply-perceptive intellect and deep emotions beneath the character's sometimes aloof manner. As Red, Freeman (whose character provides the film's soulful narration) expresses wisdom, melancholy, and an aching remorse for the crime he committed as a youth, and we're glad when Andy is able to instill in him--as well as the other prisoners--a feeling of hope after years of despair.

Darabont contrasts this with the frequent brutality of prison life, including Andy being beaten and raped by the monstrous Bogs (Mark Rolston of ALIENS and ERASER) and "The Sisters" while being subjected to lengthy stays in solitary confinement whenever he courts the warden's displeasure. A particularly sad interlude occurs when an old, institutionalized con named Brooks (played by the great James Whitmore) is released against his wishes and finds himself half a century behind the times in a world that's completely alien to him.

Yet even at its darkest THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION doesn't revel in graphic violence or ugliness for its own sake. Darabont displays admirable taste and restraint, relying on his rock-solid screenplay to convey what is needed while filming it in a beautifully classical, deliberate style that takes its time and eschews such things as shaky-cam and attention-deficit editing.

The actual prison location is remarkable. The abandoned complex, filmed shortly before a date with the wrecking ball, looks almost like a medieval castle, while Darabont's team has worked their movie magic with the interiors. The vast, specially-built cell block that houses our main characters is worthy of a Ken Adam 007 set.

Among those familiar faces adding their acting talents to the project are William Sadler (the main bad guy from DIE HARD 2, later to appear in Darabont's THE GREEN MILE), Jeffrey DeMunn (THE GREEN MILE, THE MAJESTIC), Larry Brandenburg (FARGO's Stan Grossman), Neil Guintoli (MEMPHIS BELLE), David Proval ("The Sopranos"), Jude Ciccolella (SIN CITY), and Paul McCrane (ROBOCOP, THE BLOB, "ER").

While stuck with a title that didn't exactly draw people into theaters or encourage positive word-of-mouth (nobody could remember it), THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION overcame initial bad box office and a seven-nomination strikeout at the Oscars to become one of the most popular home video and cable-TV favorites of all time. (As of this writing, it's voted #1 by members of the Internet Movie Database.) Redemption indeed, both in the film's heartrendingly upbeat ending and in real life as well.



1 comment:

Konstantin Brem said...

Замечательная картина.