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The Shawshank Redemption
The Shawshank Redemption poster
Directed by Frank Darabont
Produced by Niki Marvin
Starring Tim Robbins
Morgan Freeman
Music by Thomas Newman
Cinematography Roger Deakins
Editing by Richard Francis-Bruce
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release October 14, 1994
Running time 142 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $25 million
Gross revenue $28,341,469

The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 American drama film written and directed by Frank Darabont and starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman.

Adapted from the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, the film tells the story of Andy Dufresne, a banker who spends nearly two decades in Shawshank State Prison for the murder of his wife and her lover despite his claims of innocence. During his time at the prison, he befriends a fellow inmate, Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding, and finds himself protected by the guards after the warden begins using him in his money laundering operation.

Despite a lukewarm box office reception that barely recouped its budget, the film received multiple award nominations and favorable reviews from critics for its acting and realism. It has since enjoyed a remarkable life on cable television, VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray. It was included in the American Film Institute's 100 Years...100 Movies 10th Anniversary Edition.

Plot

In 1947, banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is convicted of murdering his wife and her lover, and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences at Shawshank State Penitentiary. Andy quickly befriends contraband smuggler Ellis "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman), an inmate serving a life sentence. Red procures a rock hammer for Andy, allowing him to create small stone chess pieces. Red later gets him a large poster of Rita Hayworth, followed in later years by images of Marilyn Monroe and Raquel Welch. Andy works in the prison laundry, but is regularly assaulted by the "bull queer" gang "the Sisters" and their leader Bogs (Mark Rolston).

In 1949, Andy overhears the brutal chief guard Byron Hadley (Clancy Brown) complaining about taxes on a forthcoming inheritance and informs him about a financial loophole. After another vicious assault by the Sisters nearly kills Andy, Hadley severely beats Bogs resulting in Bogs being sent to another prison. Andy is not attacked again. Warden Samuel Norton (Bob Gunton) meets with Andy and reassigns him to the prison library to assist elderly inmate Brooks Hatlen (James Whitmore), a pretext for Andy to manage financial duties for the prison. His advice and expertise are soon sought by other guards at Shawshank and from nearby prisons. Andy begins writing weekly letters to the state government for funds to improve the decrepit library.

In 1954, Brooks is freed on parole, but unable to adjust to the outside world after 50 years in prison, he hangs himself. Andy receives a library donation that includes a recording of The Marriage of Figaro. He plays an excerpt over the public address system, resulting in his receiving solitary confinement. After his release, Andy explains that he holds onto hope as something that the prison cannot take from him, but Red dismisses the idea. In 1963, Norton begins exploiting prison labor for public works, profiting by undercutting skilled labor costs and receiving kickbacks. He has Andy launder the money using the alias "Randall Stephens".

In 1965, Tommy Williams (Gil Bellows) is incarcerated for burglary. He joins Andy's and Red's circle of friends, and Andy helps him pass his General Educational Development (G.E.D.) examinations. In 1966, after hearing the details of Andy's case, Tommy reveals that an inmate at another prison claimed responsibility for an identical murder, suggesting Andy's innocence. Andy approaches Norton with this information, but the warden refuses to listen. Norton places Andy in solitary confinement and has Hadley murder Tommy, under the guise of an escape attempt. Andy refuses to continue with the scam, but Norton threatens to destroy the library and take away his protection and preferential treatment. After Andy is released from solitary confinement, he tells Red of his dream of living in Zihuatanejo, a Mexican Pacific coastal town. While Red shrugs it off as being unrealistic, Andy instructs him, should he ever be freed, to visit a specific hayfield near Buxton to retrieve a package.

The next day at roll call, upon finding Andy's cell empty, an irate Norton throws one of Andy's rocks at the poster of Raquel Welch hanging on the wall. The rock tears through the poster, revealing a tunnel that Andy had dug with his rock hammer over the previous two decades. The previous night, Andy escaped through the tunnel and the prison's sewage pipe with Norton's ledger, containing details of the money laundering. While guards search for him the following morning, Andy, posing as Randall Stephens, visits several banks to withdraw the laundered money. Finally, he sends the ledger and evidence of the corruption and murders at Shawshank to a local newspaper. The police arrive at Shawshank and take Hadley into custody, while Norton commits suicide to avoid arrest.

After serving 40 years, Red receives parole. He struggles to adapt to life outside prison and fears he never will. Remembering his promise to Andy, he visits Buxton and finds a cache containing money and a letter asking him to come to Zihuatanejo. Red violates his parole and travels to Fort Hancock, Texas to cross the border to Mexico, admitting he finally feels hope. On a beach in Zihuatanejo, he finds Andy, and the two friends are happily reunited.

Cast

  • Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne: A well-educated banker imprisoned for the murder of his wife and her lover.
  • Morgan Freeman as Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding: Andy's friend and fellow prison inmate, convicted of murder in 1927. Before Freeman was cast, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Paul Newman, and Robert Redford were each considered for the role. Although the part as written described a middle-aged Irishman with greying red hair (as in the novella), Darabont cast Freeman for his authoritative presence and demeanor; he could not see anyone else as Red. The short dialogue with Andy is a witticism towards this casting decision as Red—when asked about the origin of his nickname—answers, "Maybe it's because I'm Irish."
  • Bob Gunton as Samuel Norton: The pious, corrupt warden of Shawshank Penitentiary.
  • William Sadler as Heywood: A member of Red's gang of long-serving convicts.
  • Clancy Brown as Byron Hadley: The sadistic captain of the prison guards. Brown declined the offer to study real-life prison guards as preparation for his role, because he did not want to base it on any one person.
  • Gil Bellows as Tommy Williams: A young convict taken under Andy's tutelage.
  • James Whitmore as Brooks Hatlen: An elderly convict and the prison librarian. Darabont cast Whitmore because he was one of his favorite character actors.

External links

Morgan Freeman films

Driving Miss Daisy (1989)  · The Shawshank Redemption (1994)  · Bruce Almighty (2003)  · Batman Begins (2005)  · Evan Almighty (2007)  · The Dark Knight (2008)  · Conan the Barbarian (2011)  · The Dark Knight Rises (2012)  · Last Vegas (2013)  · Lucy (2014)  · The Lego Movie (2014)  ·

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