US Lawyer is sent to Shawshank prison for life, charts his experiences, friendships and influences on the prison whilst maintaining his innocence.
This movie is based on a novella by Stephen King, but don't let that put you off. It's not a horror film, rather a thumpingly good ode to friendship, hope, wit, wiles and wisdom, brimming with crackling characters and topped with the most twisteroo of twists since The Crying Game. Found guilty of killing his unfaithful wife and her lover in a fit of passion, sullen accountant Andy Dufresne (Robbins, casting off his goofball image to display more layers than the proverbial onion) is shipped to the gothic wind-swept corridors of the Shawshank State Prison for life. It is here the movie gracefully unfolds. With a beautifully rounded script, writer/director Darabont conjures up a spellbinding personal odyssey stretching through the years from 1946 to 1967.
Dufresne, all the while protesting his innocence, slowly overcomes the hellfire tortures of the prison system - an unblinking range of beatings, rapings and abject humiliations - while managing to inspire his fellow inmates to lift their degraded horizons. Among them is Red (Freeman, in a matchless supporting role), the lifer who can, given time, provide virtually anything. And for reasons best known to himself, Dufresne requires 40s starlet Rita Hayworth, provisioned in poster form.
The mood swings rigorously through every emotion as the cranky, wiseguy and downright crazed array of criminals bare the brunt of the turbulent life within the doomy Shawshank catacomb. Then it gets really mean, gearing up for its injury-time shockers. Dufresne, a whiz with figures, is bullied into running the warden's (Gunton) petty accounting scams, giving him the chance to execute his and the film's final, greatest miracle.
If you're miserable enough to look for gripes then, yes, it does drift on too long and who needs prison buggery again? Yet the ending has such poetic completeness you're too busy contentedly chuckling to worry about sore behinds. This may have confounded American audiences - it flopped big-time on planet Yank - but a more divine movie experience you will not find this side of Oscardom. Spread the word.
If you don't love Shawshank, chances are you're beyond redemption.