Monday, July 5, 2010

Day Three: The Shawshank Redemption

Ranking on IMDb Top 250: #1
Year: 1994
Director: Frank Darabont
Starring: Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman

I'm not watching a new movie today (mail doesn't come the day after the Fourth of July and I can't waste the battery to instant watch), so this will be the first of 89 entries on movies that I have seen prior to starting this blog. For some, I'll need to re-watch the movie to make sure I'm good and familiar with it, but I just saw The Shawshank Redemption about a month ago, so I'm kind of winging it. Here goes.

All I can think of when I see The Shawshank Redemption at #1 on the IMDb Top 250 is a debate that the newspaper I work for at Indiana had in the newsroom when we were putting together our "Top 100 Films of the Decade" list back in December. Truth be told, it wasn't much of a debate. My editor suggested that The Lord of the Rings trilogy be counted as one film and placed at #1 for the decade. No one protested. We got to talking about it, and we realized that it wasn't actually anyone's pick for the best movie of the decade, but everyone was perfectly okay with putting it at #1.

Shawshank is at #1 for the same reason. I've never met anyone who actually said it was their favorite movie of all time, but then again, I've never met anyone who had anything bad to say about it. It is an undisputed classic with a pair of indisputably classic performances. Morgan Freeman's strong, soothing baritone fills in the holes not occupied by perfectly written dialogue with perfectly written narration. The cinematography is gorgeous, despite the fact that 90% of the film takes place inside the walls of a prison. There's really not much to complain about, and it's such a familiar part of popular culture that even a plot summary feels unnecessary. (Quick and dirty one anyway, SPOILERS included: Andy DuFresne (Tim Robbins) is wrongly convicted of killing his wife, goes to Shawshank prison, meets Red (Morgan Freeman), gets into all kinds of mischief and misadventures while he's there, and eventually escapes. Red gets out on parole; they move to the beach and live happily ever after.)

But there are hundreds of very good movies. What sets Shawshank apart in people's minds as Numero Uno? In my opinion, it's the prevailing positive vibe. Despite all the bad shit that happens – both literally and figuratively – our two genuinely likable protagonists succeed and find the paradise they've spent the whole movie pining for. It's possibly the only movie with prison rape, murder, corruption, and suicide that can still be described as "feelgood".

There isn't too much else to say about one of the greatest movies of all time, and as a massive, anonymous collective has dictated, the greatest movie of all time. If you haven't seen it, you need to.

The Good (SPOILERS): As mentioned above, the prevailing mood of the movie is nothing short of brilliant. I'm left with a mile-wide smile on my face as Red approaches Andy on the beach at the end of the movie every time.

The Bad: Hate to use the word here, but I suppose The Shawshank Redemption is overrated. Anything that's called the best movie of all time is going to be stuck with that stigma though, so I don't hold anything against it.

The Skinny: Just like The Lord of the Rings ascended the decade-end list at the IDS to no protestation, Shawshank deserves the #1 spot, whether it's really the best movie of all time (or anyone's favorite) or not.


  1. Supposed to be one of the best movies ever, but I've never seen it. :(

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  3. ^Seriously? Mankvill, you definitely need to watch that movie.

    I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head with that review Brad.

  4. One more thing Brad, have you had a chance to visit The Ohio Reformatory near Mansfield where most the movie was filmed?

  5. What can I say here?
    Has been my favorite movie for 5+ years(few years before I discovered IMDB :D ), and not quite sure that it will change.
    I can watch it any time and any mood. The story is so gripping, acting is great, in-mate talk is fun and of course the greatest narrator of all time - Morgan Freeman.
    Pure Excelence
    The Shawshank Redemption 10(+)/10