When this popular prison drama was released in 1994, some critics complained that the movie was too long (142 minutes) to sustain its story. Those complaints miss the point, because the passage of time is crucial to this story about patience, the squeaky wheels of justice, and the growth of a life-long friendship. Only when the film reaches its final, emotionally satisfying scene do you fully understand why writer-director Frank Darabont (adapting a novella by Stephen King) allows the story to unfold at its necessary pace, and the effect is dramatically rewarding. Tim Robbins plays a banker named Andy who’s sent to Shawshank Prison on a murder charge, but as he gets to know a life-term prisoner named Red (Morgan Freeman), we realize there’s reason to believe the banker’s crime was justifiable.
We also realize that Andy’s calm, quiet exterior hides a great reserve of patience and fortitude, and Red comes to admire this mild-mannered man who first struck him as weak and unfit for prison life. So it is that The Shawshank Redemption builds considerable impact as a prison drama that defies the conventions of the genre (violence, brutality, riots) to illustrate its theme of faith, friendship, and survival. Nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Actor, and Screenplay, it’s a remarkable film that signaled the arrival of a promising new filmmaker–a film that many movie lovers count among their all-time favorites.
Morgan Freeman (Red): Prison life consists of routine, and then more routine.
Bob Gunton (Warden): I believe in two things: discipline and the Bible. Here you’ll receive both. Put your trust in the Lord; your ass belongs to me. Welcome to Shawshank.
Morgan Freeman (Red): I must admit I didn’t think much of Andy first time I laid eyes on him; looked like a stiff breeze would blow him over. That was my first impression of the man.
Morgan Freeman (Red): Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.
Morgan Freeman (Red): These walls are kind of funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, gets so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized. They send you here for life, that’s exactly what they take. The part that counts, anyways.
Tim Robbins (Andy): Here’s where it makes the most sense. You need it so you don’t forget. Forget that there are places in the world that aren’t made out of stone. That there’s a – there’s a – there’s something inside that’s yours, that they can’t touch.
Tim Robbins (Andy): Yeah. The funny thing is, on the outside, I was an honest man, straight as an arrow. I had to come to prison to be a crook.
Morgan Freeman (Red): I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged.