THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION | KERNEL JOHN’S FAVOURITE FILM

We continue our Grange Range of Kernel’s favourites with a film that flopped gigantically at the box office (it only made $18MIL in it’s initial release) but then went on to become one of the most loved and most rented or purchased video/ DVDs of all time. Pretty much every film site and film critic in the world ranks it was one of the best films of all time and you will get no argument from Salty Popcorn. We all love it. It is the film Morgan Freeman rates as the best film he has ever made and has so much trivia it is amazing to read. You can suss it HERE but some bits of interest, Red was really supposed to be an Irishman with red hair, Stephen King sold the rights for $5000 but never cashed the cheque. Years after Shawshank came out, the author got the cheque framed and mailed it back to the director, Frank Darabont, with a note inscribed: “In case you ever need bail money. Love, Steve.” Final bit of trivia; Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Paul Newman and Robert Redford were all considered for the part of Red. Kevin Costner regrets turning down the role of Andy but he had Waterworld to make :). Now enough from me – enjoy this beautiful passionate review from Kernel John. All the best…………….JK

 

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THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION | THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW | GRANGE RANGE KERNEL JOHN’S FAVOURITE FILM | MOVIE POSTER

 

REVIEW BY JOHN MCPARLAND

I simply adore this film. I first saw it around the year 2000 when my parents hired it on VHS (remember those?) from the local movie rental store. Back when there was such a thing as a local movie rental store, usually found across the road from the local blacksmith… Since then I find myself watching the DVD (I have upgraded) at least once a year. It does not seem to matter how many times I watch the film, it still always moves me. I can recount entire sections word for word, yet I still get choked up when the last phrase of a scene is uttered.

THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION is a film based on Stephen King’s short story “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.” I have read the story, and without trying to start a film vs. book medium war, take it from me that the story is terrible. This is not a reflection on King at all, much of his literature is fantastic, but the structure of this particular story is incredibly convoluted. The story’s narrator jumps backwards and forwards through time at blinding speeds to recount his tale. Every aspect of the story, such as Andy’s drinking habits, is followed in intimate detail from the first time Andy was witnessed drinking, until the last time he had a drop, though the two moments were decades apart. Then we jump back in time to the “present” where the narrator picks up his main telling of the story, until the next facet of the tale forces him off onto another random time travelling anecdote ridden tangent. It is frustratingly like being told a story by a child who is constantly being distracted by something shiny. Sadly though, you cannot strangle a book and make it behave.

 

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THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION | THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW | GRANGE RANGE KERNEL JOHN’S FAVOURITE FILM | RED (MORGAN FREEMAN) & ANDY (TIM ROBBINS)

 

Originally released in 1994, the film is directed by Frank Darabont who was also responsible for the film adaptation of other King classics THE GREEN MILE and THE MIST. It stars Academy Award winners Tim Robbins (MYSTIC RIVER), and Morgan Freeman (MILLION DOLLAR BABY), as Andy Dufresne and Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding, respectively. Other prominent cast members include Bob Gunton (PATCH ADAMS) as Shawshank prison Warden Samuel Norton, and Clancy Brown (STARSHIP TROOPERS) as Captain of the Guard Byron Hadley. The film follows Andy’s life in prison for the double murder of his wife and her lover.

Robbins’s portrayal of Andy is a perfect construction of King’s character. An aloof, almost haughty persona exudes from Andy, giving those around him the impression that he is better than them. Before coming to Shawshank Andy was the Vice President of a large Portland bank, so in the period that the film was set (late 1940’s), he technically is a better class of citizen than those he is incarcerated with. Highly educated, wealthy and successful on the outside, Andy finds himself suddenly surrounded by murderers, rapists and thieves, and struggles to lose that certain level of arrogance and indifference that society holds for convicts, even though he has now become one of them. First introduced by Red as “that tall drink of water, with the silver spoon up his arse,” Robbins plays the part of Andy to a T.

 

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THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION | THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW | GRANGE RANGE KERNEL JOHN’S FAVOURITE FILM | BROOKS (JAMES WHITMORE)

 

Most of the movie is presented from Red’s point of view as he recounts Andy’s life. As such, even though the film is about Andy, the real star of the piece for me is Red. The film retains its literary origins by having Red narrate large sections of plot. Now, as long as you have not been living under a rock for the past few decades, you would know that being spoken to by Morgan Freeman is the most glorious pastime ever. Seriously, that man could recite the phonebook to me ad infinitum and I would not once get bored. Having Freeman’s smooth, sensuous voice explain what is happening in the film makes me love this movie even more. Freeman himself is fantastic in this piece, introducing himself to the audience as “the guy who can get it for ya,” he portrays a heartfelt character with a dark past who struggles to fight the demons of his younger self on a daily basis.

Norton comes across to the outside world as a righteously pious Bible basher, whose first sentence of the film is to a group of new convicts: “rule number one – no blasphemy, I’ll not have the Lord’s name taken in vain in my prison. The other rules you’ll figure out along the way.” This does nothing to actually assist the prisoners in learning how to survive in Shawshank, but does everything to show the viewer Norton’s state of mind. The true irony stems from Norton’s blatant corruption and murderous antics later in the film, which puts his deeds in stark contrast to this message. A cruel, callous and devious man, Gunton’s performance of the prison’s calculating overlord is incredibly solid. He is the man in charge, and everything he does or says further enforces that belief amongst the inmates. Hadley on the other hand makes no secret of his disgust for those under his care. By way of introduction, Hadley reveals himself to the audience by slamming a prisoner in the stomach with his baton for asking: “when do we eat.” Moments later, he is seen beating a convict to death for breaking down and crying on his first night behind bars. A terribly violent and negative man who revels in the pain he inflicts, Brown puts vicious teeth on this fearful character with his talented performance.

 

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THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION | THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW | GRANGE RANGE KERNEL JOHN’S FAVOURITE FILM | ANDY (TIM ROBBINS) SUFFERS ONE OF HIS MANY BEATINGS

 

The film has many moments depicting the brutality of prison life, yet it is done in such a tasteful way that your heart goes out to the victims, without your mind being turned off by over the top violence. The scenes in the film are nothing like those shown in HBO’s OZ television series. The director’s impulse here clearly was not to shock or disgust the audience, but rather to drive home the notion that prison life is a hard and dangerous life, while still making us sympathise with the film’s protagonist. I know that I for one always tense up during those particular scenes as I worry for the physical and mental wellbeing of our heroes. Broken bones mend, bruises fade, but the mental scars begin to take their toll, and as the film progresses you start to see THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION’s characters lose their sense of self.

Above all else, the film carries with it powerful themes of fear and hope. The fear of physical harm is forever present. The fear of one’s past and the sequence of events that led to their current situations haunt the prisoners on a daily basis. The fear of losing your identity, of not being the person you used to be, of being nothing but hollow at your very core, slowly but inexorably strips away the prisoner’s very humanity, as they watch decades upon decades of time pass them by through the chain link fence and barbed wire of their home. Red states on the topic of institutionalisation that “…these [prison] walls are funny. First you hate them, then you get used to them. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them. They send you here for life, that’s exactly what they take. The part that counts anyway.” This is an incredibly moving statement, said when it is during a particularly poignant moment of the film. While some of the younger members of the group deny it is possible, those who have been incarcerated for most of their lives know that it is the fate that awaits them all.

 

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THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION | THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW | GRANGE RANGE KERNEL JOHN’S FAVOURITE FILM | RED (MORGAN FREEMAN) & ANDY (TIM ROBBINS)

 

With such daily stresses and loss of self, it is no wonder that the prisoners also hold a fear of hope. Hope is a danger to them, a sentiment to be spurned, an emotion to be eradicated before it takes too deep a root. The notion of hope is a clear and present threat to all the inmates. Can you imagine such a thing? To actually fear hope? Hope is what drives us; it is what spurs us on to greater things. If there is nothing to hope for, how does one even justify getting up in the morning? But that is exactly the point. These prisoners have nothing to hope for at all. Even the hope of their eventual release in the distant future is no real goal to live for because they know that when that day comes they would have already become institutionalised. Dependent on a repressive and regressive system, with no time left in their old age to enjoy their freedom, and no chance to ever have a functioning life on the outside. And so they fear the very sentiment that has helped to spur humanity onto the greatness it has achieved since the dawn of time. These are such emotive messages. My heart aches for these prisoners as the years roll by and we see them slip into a despair that they can never escape from. The direction and the performances of the actors to aid in this vision of sadness are absolutely stellar.

The only non-conformer to this rejection of hope is Andy. Andy is a man determined to survive and not let a system that he knows is corrupt and brutal to strip him of his humanity. He does what he can to keep himself safe while actively working to better his situation and those of his fellow prisoners. Though he is told by those around him to abandon his foolish sense of hope and unfolding events very nearly break him, Andy remains strong, with Robbins’s portrayal of grit and determination in the face of adversity a master of acting.

Thomas Newman’s score in THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION is amazing. Nominated for an Academy Award for this film, Newman brings together a collection of music that is powerful and emotive at all the right times, without ever detracting or distracting from the plot. His sounds aid and enhance the storyline beautifully, with certain tracks being reproduced and used in many other films and trailers in recent times.

For me, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION is a timeless film. Beautifully crafted and portrayed, it is a masterful piece of both directing and acting. With powerfully resonating themes and intensely heartfelt sounds, it is without a doubt one of my favourite films of all time.

 

5 Pops

 

 

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