Review of “The Shawshank Redemption”

Review of “The Shawshank Redemption(rəˈdem(p)SH(ə)n)”

By Roger Ebert

It is a strange comment(ˈkäment) to make about a film set inside a prison(ˈprizən), but “The Shawshank Redemption” creates a warm hold on our feelings because it makes us a member of a family. Many movies offer us vicarious(vəˈkerēəs) experiences and quick, superficial(ˌso͞opərˈfiSHəl) emotions(əˈmōSH(ə)n). “Shawshank” slows down and looks. It uses the narrator’s(ˈnerādər) calm(kä(l)m), observant(əbˈzərvənt) voice to include us in the story of men who have formed a community behind bars. It is deeper than most films; about continuity(ˌkäntəˈn(y)o͞oədē) in a lifetime, based on friendship and hope.

Interesting that although the hero of the film is the convicted(kənˈviktəd) former banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins(ˈräbənz)), the action is never seen from his point of view. The film’s opening scene(sēn) shows him being given two life sentences for the murder of his wife and her lover, and then we move, permanently(ˈpərmənəntlē), to a point of view representing(ˌreprəˈzent) the prison population and particularly the lifer(ˈlīfər) Ellis ‘Red’ Redding (Morgan(ˈmôrɡən) Freeman). It is his voice remembering the first time he saw Andy (“looked like a stiff(stif) breeze would blow(blō) him over”), and predicting, wrongly, that he wouldn’t make it in prison.

From Andy’s arrival on the prison bus to the film’s end, we see only how others see him - Red, who becomes his best friend, Brooks the old librarian(ˌlīˈbrerēən), the corrupt(kəˈrəpt) Warden Norton, guards and prisoners(ˈpriz(ə)nər). Red is our surrogate(ˈsərəɡət). He’s the one we identify with, and the redemption, when it comes, is Red’s. We’ve been shown by Andy’s example that you have to keep true to yourself, not lose hope, bide(bīd) your time, set a quiet example and look for your chance. “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really,” he tells Red. “Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.”