In the ten years since it bombed at the box office, The Shawshank Redemption has become probably the most popular picture of the 90s. Frank Darabont's debut is adored, praised as literally life-changing by some, and so impressive that people are even prepared to forgive its writer-director for The Majestic. Now, after making its reputation on home video, the powerful drama - about two convicts (Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman) whose friendship is forged in America's most unforgiving prison - receives a welcome anniversary re-release.
It's simple to say The Shawshank Redemption is about hope, but it is also about faith and love. In an age and culture saturated with sex, it allows for a close relationship unburdened by bodily fluids. Enigmatic new inmate Andy (Robbins) and the regretful, older Red (Freeman) could hardly contrast more, yet they connect. They love each other. That neither actor nabbed an Oscar in the year Tom Hanks won for Forrest Gump shows stupid is as stupid does, indeed. Freeman, in particular, is exceptional. His performance is so unshowy it can easily go unnoticed, but it's the soul of Shawshank.
"MOVING, WARM AND REWARDING"
The script - based on a Stephen King short story - is grounded in prison movie cliché: from Bob Gunton's grim-faced, Bible-spouting warden ("Put your trust in the Lord; your ass belongs to me") to James Whitmore's wizened old bird fancier. And, yes, the beach-set postscript (filmed at the studio's suggestion) feels slightly overstretched. But the characters are so engrossing, their plight so pitiable, that these issues don't detract from the picture's impact (just as it takes repeat viewings to notice how implausible the ending is). Moving, warm and rewarding, The Shawshank Redemption deserves its release.