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A DVD Review Of The Shawshank Redemption

Aug 31, 2008
There are no shortage of contenders for the title of greatest film of all time and many film theorists would say that a decision such as this should not be left to the public, however it has been and the public has spoken and this article offers an expert review of the IMDB top film of all time, the Shawshank Redemption.

The Shawshank Redemption is generally a film that ranks up on most top ten lists and I find myself questioning why. Could it be the slow baritone pace of the narration, or the feel good finale where the system gets beaten? The truth is the film is grotesquely historically inaccurate and unbelievable, however soothing and entertaining in places.

The brutality of the prison is superficial and the crude representation of institutionalisation throughout is garish. Freeman gives his stock performance whether he is playing the president, god or a criminal, he seems to be the acting equivalent of a Volvo, nothing special but you know what you are getting.

The film seems to have slipped through a gap somewhere delivering a desensitised portrayal of a 1930s prison in a southern US state where people of the same colour can not attend the same school and are still hung in public, however in Shawshank everyone seems to be one big happy family. Artistic license has been stretched and broken in this film, at points it feels like a prison adaptation of Its A Wonderful Life.

The director Frank Darabont is no stranger to idealised prison stories as he also directed the Green Mile and has a project in pre-production called Law Abiding Citizen which is about a criminal mastermind operating from his prison cell. The popularity of his films must be something to do with the gritty nature of the prison setting combined with the somewhat fairytale narrative techniques which creates a comfortable distance from the harsh realities.

It does deserve some credit as it is a relatively entertaining film albeit extremely sentimental. The major fault with the film is the lack of a journey that lead characters go on. Tim Robbins enters prison with a reserved confidence knowing his destiny and achieves it with relatively little difficulty and Morgan Freeman exists purely to provide a metronome commentary on Robbins. The staunch thematic pillars of the film are all too prevalent and the message that Robbins carries, that you cannot imprison a mans spirit saturates the narrative.

All this is wrapped up nicely by a truly Hollywood mainstream ending where the good guys prevail, although the character Freeman plays is a convicted murderer. There are some nice moments and this review might seem scathing to many however it is based on the notion that The Shawshank Redemption is one of the best films ever made.
About the Author
Dominic Donaldson is a writer of DVD Review and is a commentator on all aspects of the film industry.
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