The Shawshank Redemption (1994) SYNOPSIS

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) is an impressive, engrossing piece of film-making from director/screenwriter Frank Darabont who adapted horror master Stephen King's 1982 novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (first published in Different Seasons) for his first feature film. The inspirational, life-affirming and uplifting, old-fashioned style Hollywood product (resembling The Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) and Cool Hand Luke (1967)) is a combination prison/dramatic film and character study. The popular film is abetted by the golden cinematography of Roger Deakins, a touching score by Thomas Newman, and a third imposing character - Maine's oppressive Shawshank State Prison (actually the transformed, condemned Mansfield Ohio Correctional Institution or State Reformatory).
Posters for the film illustrate the liberating, redemptive power of hope and the religious themes of freedom and resurrection, with the words: "Fear can hold you prisoner, Hope can set you free." Darabont's film is a patiently-told, allegorical tale (unfolding like a long-played, sometimes painstaking, persistent chess game) of friendship, patience, hope, survival, emancipation, and ultimate redemption and salvation by the time of the film's finale.

It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Morgan Freeman), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Sound - but it failed to win a single Oscar. And the film's director failed to receive a nomination for himself! In the same year as Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, and Speed, they received all of the attention. Only through positive word-of-mouth (following cable TV and broadcast airings, and then video releases) did the film do well - although its original reception at the box-office was lukewarm. The film was the precursor for another inspirational and popular film (and a similar adaptation of a Stephen King story by writer/director Frank Darabont) - The Green Mile (1999).

  • Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne
  • Morgan Freeman as Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding: Andy's best friend and the film's narrator. Red was convicted of murder in 1927. Before Freeman was cast, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Paul Newman, and Robert Redford were each considered for the role. Although written as a middle-aged Irishman with greying red hair (as in the novella), Darabont cast Freeman for his authoritative presence and demeanor, because he could not see anyone else as Red.
  • Bob Gunton as Warden Samuel Norton: The warden of Shawshank is well versed in the Bible and presents himself as a pious, devout Christian and reform-minded administrator, but his actions reveal him to be in truth corrupt, ruthless, and remorseless.
  • William Sadler as Heywood: a member of Red's gang of long-sentence convicts.
  • Clancy Brown as Capt. Byron Hadley: Chief of the guards. Hadley is an intemperate guard who thinks nothing of delivering beatings to the inmates to keep them in line. When cast for the role, Brown declined the offer to study real-life prison guards as preparation for his role, because he did not want to base it on any one person.
  • Gil Bellows as Tommy Williams: a young convict whose experiences in a previous prison hold the truth about Andy's innocence.
  • Mark Rolston as Bogs Diamond: the head of "The Sisters" gang and a prison rapist.
  • James Whitmore as Brooks Hatlen: prison librarian/trustee and one of the oldest convicts at Shawshank having been in prison since 1905. Darabont cast Whitmore because he was one of his favorite character actors.


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