Movie Analysis: The Shawshank Redemption

This week we are going to inspect Shawshank Redemption one of the best movies ever! For sure!

If you haven’t seen The Shawshank Redemption, stop whatever you’re doing and watch it! If you have seen The Shawshank Redemption, I invite you to join me in breaking down and analyzing the movie.

The Shawshank Redemption
Fanmade Cover

Overview

The film is based on Stephen King’s novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, which was published in his 1982 short story collection, Different Seasons.

Shawshank is likable for many reasons, but the twist is what made it loved. There have been several twisty endings in cinema, but Andy’s is genuinely awe-inspiring. When you watch the film again, you realize that he acted at all times with purpose. He was patient and careful and long-suffering and courageous. He is a hero who was forcefully and wrongfully dipped into hell-on-earth, but managed to stay good.

Fun fact: Shawshank Redemption only made just over $50 million worldwide at the box office, including a measly $2.4 million domestic opening weekend. It wasn’t until later that the film became regarded as one of the best films of all time.

Film synopsis

Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison for the murders of his wife and her lover and is sentenced to a tough prison. However, only Andy knows he didn’t commit the crimes. While there, he forms a friendship with Red (Morgan Freeman), experiences brutality of prison life, adapts, helps the warden, etc., all in 19 years.

Characters

Andy Dufresne

Andy Dufresne represents people who believe they are trapped in jobs, relationships, families, locations, turmoil, vices, addictions, debt, depression, and shows how escape can (and should) be attempted. With patient tenacity. It doesn’t matter whether other people think you are ‘innocent’ or ‘guilty’.

The friendship of Red and Andy is regularly regarded as one of the high points of this film, and it has always resonated with me. The innocent man (Andy) breaks all sorts of laws and plans an elaborate prison break. The guilty man (Red) pays for his crimes and is eventually released on good behavior. Both end up together on a beach in Mexico, to live out the rest of their lives in solitude, apart from society. That’s always felt like the tragedy of Shawshank; criminal or not, everyone ends up the same broken man by the end.

Morgan Freeman is fantastic in a role that he has become synonymous with.

Ellis Boyd ‘Red’ Redding (Morgan Freeman)

Fun fact: In the book Red isn’t black, he literally is Irish. He becomes Andy’s best friend in prison and he admit that ‘he is the only guilty man’ there. One of the main characters in the movie and he has a very close relationship to Andy.

Warden Norton

Warden Samuel Norton is first seen when he introduces himself to the new inmates. He portrays himself as a strict Christian, though whether this is sincere at the start or just a facade all along to maintain a good public image is unclear given the fact that Norton has no problem with allowing Captain Byron Hadley to beat an inmate that spoke disrespectfully to him with his nightstick and he is later revealed to be, or at least to have become, corrupt, greedy, deceitful, and remorselessly cruel. Warden Norton says that he believes in two things: discipline and the Bible, and that the inmates will receive both.

His character is typical and fits into the whole story. Norton killed Tommy to keep him quiet about Andy being innocent, Blatch presumably got away with the crime.

Byron Hadley

Captain Hadley is a very cruel man who frequently abuses his authority by brutally beating inmates and sometimes killing them. This also includes beating up a new inmate that is addressed by the other inmates as “Fat-ass.” The next day, Fat-ass dies from the blows that Hadley gave him for not keeping his mouth shut.

He has a twisted mind and is the bad guy (together with Byron Hadley).

Other characters

I not mention other characters here because they are not as important as the mentioned ones and there come and go, there more designed to fill the gabs between story and the action between the two mentioned bad guys.

Who Killed Andy Dufresne’s wife?

It was his former cellmate at another prison, Elmo Blatch.

Who is The Shawshank Redemption in memory of?

Allen Greene – He was Frank Darabont’s agent and also a close personal friend. He died just before the completion of the movie due to AIDS complications.

What did Brooks do to get into Shawshank?

His crime is never revealed, murder is presumed due to his lengthy prison sentence.

Where is Shawshank?

Shawshank State Prison is a penitentiary in Maine. In the film The Shawshank Redemption, it is filmed at the Mansfield State Reformatory in Ohio, which is a stand-in for the fictional prison.

Do we really see a happy end?

I remembering watching The Shawshank Redemption when I was younger and loving the ending because Andy and Red live happily ever after. But when I watched it a few years later I had a few doubts. The line that really stuck out to me was “I hope the pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams.” And the next shot is the pacific looking amazingly beautiful. Almost like it’s actually Red’s imagination. Then upon closer examination nothing about the ending feels real at all which is a total contrast from the rest of the movie. The entire movie is dark, bleak, and gritty feeling. Red even says “I’d like to tell you that Andy fought the good fight and the sisters let him be. I’d like to tell you that, but prison is no fairy tale world.” There’s also the fact that Red’s final monologue is uncomfortably similar to Brooks’s suicide letter both with similar lines.

Brooks: “I doubt they’d kick up any fuss. Not for an old crook like me.” Red: “Course I doubt they’d toss up any roadblocks for that. Not for an old crook like me.”

And there’s the fact that Red carved his name into the same wall that Brooks did. The similarities are too much at that point. It fits with the story as well. Red describes Andy as creature that shouldn’t be caged, that he was special, but Red was not special himself. Andy’s story is remarkable but Red’s story is very gritty and down to earth. Andy escaping fits Andy, but Red making it to Mexico doesn’t fit Red. Red is an old con just like Brooks. Setting aside the fact that somehow Red got all the way from Maine to Mexico on a bus even though he’s a felon, the entire final scene plays like something out of a dream. Red’s walking on the beach and there’s Andy, sun in his hair working on a boat and he sees Red, smiles and walks over and the camera pans out to show the ocean.

One explanation is that these are the dying thoughts of Red as he hangs himself just like Brooks did. The movie can even be thought of as one long suicide note from Red.

Another is that maybe after his death he meets his old friend Andy Dufresne in the afterlife and he his forgiven for the murder he committed.

Or was it all in his head because we get the story from Andy’s perspective? Who knows!?

What makes the movie so interesting?

  • Good film, not great in terms of artistry
  • Elicits a very positive emotion from the viewer
  • Plays out like a book, using narration to help the audience understand everything that is going on
  • Story that isn’t extremely cliche’ compared to the average movie

The way the Andy escape was revealed was done extremely well! There was no epic showdown with his antagonist where everyone could predict the outcome – for most viewers the sudden escape plan explained and subsequent downfall of his antagonist was a happy surprise.


So the remaining question is – how often do you look at a man’s shoes Blog?

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