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  The Shawshank Redemption

rating: (out of 4 stars)

United States; 1994
Directed by Frank Darabont; produced by Niki Marvin; screenplay by Frank Darabont
Starring Morgan Freeman, Tim Robbins, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown, Gil Bellows

My heart wants to give this film four stars, but some minor flaws prevent me from doing so. I don't mind them, but admittedly they exist. This is one of the most easily loved films around, and it has taken me under its spell as well. It contains everything we can love in a film: drama, suspense, mystery, great performances, beautiful images, all supported by one of the best scores composed by Thomas Newman.

The hero is Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and his story is told by Red (Morgan Freeman). Andy has committed a double murder and is put away for life. Maybe he is innocent. The first part of the film deals with Andy, Red and their group of friends dealing with prison life. Andy is sometimes beaten and raped by another group. We have seen this in films before, but never more engaging than in 'The Shawshank Redemption'.

Since Andy was a banker before his sentence he helps the warden (Bob Gunton) and some gueard with their taxes, slowly turning into a criminal, with money laundering, inside the prison walls. For doing so, Andy is treated in a better way most of the time. It makes his life a little easier. Convenient for the story, Red is the guy who can get you things: cigarettes, gum, posters, you name it, he will find it.

Redemption is found in many ways, by many characters, even a bird named Jake. The title seems to be invented for most main characters in this story, based on a Stephen King short story. I did not like that story very much, but the film digs a little deeper and the result is more than satisfying. Some will argue that the ending takes too long, but I found it a peaceful and relaxing watching experience. By not rushing things to an early conclusion the audience has time to think back and who knows, maybe find some redemption on its own. Listen to Newman's score and you might do exactly that.

There are things that, one can argue, could have been better, or more original, or a little less slow. But I love this film. Even minor changes could spoil the experience. There is a reason so many people love this film: it is perfect the way it is.

  Review by Reinier Verhoef