|Shawshank Redemption, The|
|Written by Bill Warren & AVRev.com|
|Thursday, 20 November 2008|
Maine, 1946. Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a quiet young banker, is given two consecutive life terms for the murders of his philandering wife and her lover. He claims he's innocent, and we didn't see him commit the crimes; Andy's guilt or innocence is not a crucial issue at this point -- though his being denied justice is.
At first, Andy keeps pretty much to himself in prison, but forms a friendship with long-term prisoner Red (Morgan Freeman), the kind of guy who can get just about anything you really want. Andy approaches him for a rock hammer, a small tool for chipping and shaping rocks, and certainly far too small to tunnel out of Shawshank. Red's amused by Andy's easy manner; "Yes," Red says in his occasional narration, "I guess you could say I liked Andy right off."
"The Shawshank Redemption" is a deliberately paced movie, and it's 142 minutes long; there's no strong narrative drive on the surface -- it's episodic, covering a period from 1946 until the mid-1960s.
Darabont doesn't make it emphatic or even obvious (until the last fifteen minutes, when it needs to be obvious), but the core idea here is the absolute necessity of never giving up hope. Every incident in the film reflects the theme, from the brutal attacks of the "bull queers," to Andy's establishment of a good prison library, to helping cocky young prisoner Tommy (Gil Bellows) even to shady financial arrangements the corrupt Warden Norton (Bob Gunton) forces Andy to arrange. The concept that even under the worst of circumstances, there's still room for a wishing star, for hope, for the possibility of redemption, runs through the movie like a shining thread.
The movie does not glorify prisoners or their crimes, though in terms of the film, exactly what each of them did is irrelevant: they're all equal now. Prison movies are crucibles, boiling things down, distilling an essence and examining it closely. "The Shawshank Redemption" is more than this, because it never takes the fact of prison as a given, the way a lot of prison films do. We never forget that the cast is confined, and confined behind high gray walls and old steel bars.
Morgan Freeman casually dominates the screen with his warmth, wisdom and grace. It's a performance of small details and telling glances, a raised eyebrow, a half-grin, a worried look. And yet there is nothing whatever studied about this.
Although physically unlikely for the role of Andy, being so tall, Tim Robbins is fine in the role. Robbins is at his best at playing slightly remote men, though his performances often seem to lack a strong connection between Robbins and the role. That's true here as well; it's not a bad performance, but unlike Freeman, who becomes Red, Robbins only plays Andy.
Cinematographer Roger Deakins does exceptional work, especially considering that just about all he has to work with are grays, blues, blacks, and flesh tones. The film has almost a burnished feel; the colors, few though they are, are intense and rich. The score by Thomas Newman is also especially good; imaginatively, Newman frequently counter-scores scenes: he can use understated music, often just a piano, for the most intense scenes, but can also soar to the heavens at the right moment.
"The Shawshank Redemption" is a long movie about a bunch of guys in prison, and there isn't even one riot. But it's a very fine film, moving, surprising, involving, with very good direction and outstanding performances -- but those weren't enough to make it a hit. Fortunately for Darabont and others, the practice of mailing "screeners" (videotapes) to Academy Members resulted in this almost-overlooked movie to begin its journey to the hearts of those who love it.
[Written by AVRev] [START]
"The Shawshank Redemption" is one of my most anticipated Blu-ray releases. Lucky for me, Warner has lived up to my expectations in terms of video quality. Warner presents the film in a 1080p/VC-1 encode. The standard DVD edition is already a great presentation, but the Blu-ray manages to improve upon the quality. The source is super clean. There is hardly a speck of dirt or dust to be found. Any previously existing scratches or blemishes have been wiped clean. There is some film grain, but it adds to the texture and visual style of the film. The colors are accurately portrayed. Hues and saturation are stable and clean. Details are exceptional, both in the foreground and background. There are a few instances of softness, but nothing distracting. The black levels are perfect, with contrast very well balanced. With a BD-50 disc, there are no motion or compression artifacts. Well done Warner Bros.
The audio quality is excellent, for the material the film presents us with. The soundtrack is presented in the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio format. As with the original release of the film, there is very little use of the surround channels. This is not a flaw of the Blu-ray transfer, simply the original sound design. The surrounds lack discrete effects and ambience. The music score however, is wonderfully balanced. The LFE channel is strong, but not overpowering. The dialogue is crisp and clean. Unlike televised presentations of the film, the dialogue is clearly audible without the need to super boost the volume of your receiver.
The special features from the special edition DVD of the film a few years ago have all been ported over the the Blu-ray release. Most all the special features are presented in standard definition. First, there is an audio commentary with director Frank Darabont. His audio commentaries are always very articulate. This commentary is no exception. Frank presents us with a wealth of behind the scenes information. "Hope Springs Eternal: A Look Back at 'The Shawshank Redemption,'" is a 30-minute long documentary with interviews by Darabont and most of the cast members. "Shawshank: The Redeeming Feature" is a 45-minute documentary created for the BBC. It contains more interviews with the cast members. There is an excerpt from "The Charlie Rose Show," containing even more interviews. This feature is a bit much considering the presence of the previous two documentaries. "The Sharktank Redemption" is a short spoof film. Finally, there are still galleries and the original theatrical trailer. Exclusive to the high-def Blu-ray is this DigiBook Edition which contains a 33-page booklet of production notes and publicity stills.
"The Shawshank Redemption" is a terrific family that can be enjoyed by all. This is a must own in your Blu-ray collection. While the video and audio are not perfect, they are better than the SD DVD. This is a great film to revisit time and time again, and is much appreciated on the Blu-ray format. [END]