#72 The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Amazon.com essential video
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. --Jeff Shannon

DVD features
Fans who made this box-office dud a very popular and cherished film should eat up the 10th anniversary edition. Filmmaker Frank Darabont took a week to record the commentary track so it would be packed with the best stories and information. Of course, some of these stories are repeated in the two and a half hours of extra content. The new retrospective documentary has interviews with all the key talents a decade later. There's also a good amount of info about the ominous setting of the film--a soon-to-be demolished prison in Ohio--that was transformed, and it in turn transformed the members of the cast and crew after months of filming. "The Redeeming Feature" is a refreshingly candid, British-produced TV program examining the phenomenon of the film. Another neat addition is the short parody The Sharktank Redemption, starring Morgan Freeman's son Alfonso as a "prisoner" of a Hollywood talent agency. The feature film looks and sounds great, and the only change is a very slight tinkering to fix a continuity error (pointed out on the commentary). --Doug Thomas

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