Shawshank Redemption

Otto Burrows.

The Shawshank Redemption.

Stephen King.



Stephen King’s time captiving movie explores many themes and issues in its extended take on Andy Dufresne’s time in Shawshank Prison and unravels the events leading to his elaborate escape to the “outside world”. Within Andy’s years of prison, despite being innocent, he learns all of the hard lessons of life including corruption and murder and yet he also learns the value of friendship and puts his great mind to use. We follow Andy through his time with Red and friends, through moments of despair and triumph, to end on a lovely beach in Mexico where Andy and Red start their life on the outside, again.

The most prominent reason why I enjoyed the movie so thoroughly was that I formed a thorough connection to Andy Dufresne and was wholeheartedly drawn in to his plight. In the opening scenes, we are left with an unbalanced opinion of Andy, torn between the urge to believe in him but feel the undertow of hate and prejudice surrounding an accused murderer. As we follow him through his time at Shawshank Prison, we begin to know and like his character more. I was drawn to his intellect and at the same time was intrigued by his silence.  Towards the end of the film, as Warden Norton rips the poster off the wall to reveal the escape tunnel, he rips off the cover on our ignorance and I felt overwhelming satisfaction that he had finally escaped. This fitting justice for his life of injustice added to my enjoyment. I like the sentiment that although life may get you down, you’ve got to just “get busy living” as there is always light at the end of a dark tunnel.

I would recommend this movie because among the profanity and dark moments, the importance of hope and persistence shines through the prison grit, and combined with great storytelling, a classic is made. The factors which add to excellence of this movie, are the small things that are aimed at your subconscious mind and in turn add up to make the movie we know and love. The first, which I believe to be one of the most important, is the role selection. In one of the first scenes with Andy, we see him portrayed in the courtroom as a “chilling and remorseless” man. Yet as the movie progresses, we are shown a different side of Andy and begin to like him as quiet, calculated person that he has always been. This is portrayed by Tom Robbins in his cold set face and nicely trimmed hair which fades to the hardened man approaching his fifties who escapes Shawshank Prison. Parallel to this, Red, played by Morgan Freeman is also very well casted as his character plays to the strengths of the smart black man that we have known and loved throughout Freeman’s acting career. 

Andy’s conviction was based on minimal evidence and a pre-decided opinion that he was a killer. The failure of the justice system challenges my childhood assumption of the black and white contrast between good and bad. Andy is a good man who was “as straight as an arrow” on the outside yet he was convicted. This is a deeply unsettling thought which makes me think about my ignorance to this issue. All my life I have driven by Mount Eden prison and have never once given more than a second thought on what it is like inside. News recently has been focused on gang violence in prisons not so far from home and this movie has opened my eyes to this. A window through to a different world, I have never considered how terrifying and overwhelming it would be to be sent to prison for a crime I did not commit. It reminds of the same feeling which stirred deep down while reading To Kill A MockingBird, where a black man was accused of a rape he did not commit. These stories bring forth my own personal dilemmas and provides further engagement and emotional attachment to the characters and movie.  

As an Allegory, Prison could be compared to the school playground that we as kids mingled in. The social hierarchy of society can be seen in prison as the men held inside are reduced to following instructions and forget how to live for themselves, much the same to our childhoods as we were not yet old enough to think independently. Prison reduces a man to his primal life and due to constant violence, could be doing more to hinder these men than heal. I believe that these harsh lessons can be learnt in the playground too through bullying and the often harsh nature of maturing kids. This helped me connect further with the characters and the prison setting through a largely innocent link to my early childhood. As Andy was bullied and battered I felt I needed to help him and stick up for him as others had not for me. This only embellished my liking of Andy and heighten the pinnacles of the film. I propose that many other viewers may have connected with the visual text in the same manner and many more will experience this, which leads me to highly recommend this outstanding piece of visual viewing.

I really enjoyed the movie as although I have never experienced a life event which has drastically changed my future, it is thoroughly interesting following Andy as he spends his years in Shawshank and learn alongside him as he was faced with violence, prejudice and hardships. Although Andy had been so wronged by the world, he did not carry any resentment towards his peers and showed very little signs of prejudice. In recent years “the world went and got itself in a big damn hurry” and we now need to take a step back and appreciate people for who they are. I believe that if we follow in Andys footsteps and learn not to judge people on pre-decided opinions and assumptions, the world would be a significantly better place for everybody.

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