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The Shawshank Redemption: 10th Anniversary DVD Review

The Shawshank Redemption: 10th Anniversary

November 27, 2004

Director: Frank Darabont,
Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown, Gil Bellows, Mark Rolston, James Whitmore, Jeffrey DeMunn, Larry Brandenburg, Neil Giuntoli, Brian Libby, David Proval, Joseph Ragno, Jude Ciccolella, ,

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DVD Review

The Shawshank Redemption is the stuff of legend, both in story and in its journey to the top five of just about every Greatest Movie list over the last five years. What began as a novella in Stephen King’s Different Seasons, ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption’ was adapted by King’s director friend Frank Darabont, who had so far dabbled mostly in shlock (Buried Alive) and horror screenplays (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein).

The movie was released in 1994 to critical acclaim but the audience never materialized, either due to poor marketing (a slow prison drama with no big name actors wasn’t going to draw the Die Hard crowd) or King’s association with the horror genre. Or maybe it was just one of life’s mysteries. But thankfully the Academy saw fit to award it seven of the big nominations that year and, when released on VHS, Shawshank slowly clawed its way to success much like its hero Andy Dufresne.

We’re going to assume you’ve seen the film and thus know the ending (if not, do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dollars, and go back to the DVD rental store with your tail between your legs) because the pleasure comes from looking back at Andy’s story in retrospect and seeing just how patient he was in breaking out of Shawshank prison. But this isn’t your average prison break movie – in fact the bulk of the film, at least on first viewing, isn’t about breaking out at all, but the simple friendship inside between newbie Andy Dufresne and the ‘institutionalised’ Ellis Redding. “Why do they call you Red?” Andy asks on their first meeting. “Maybe it’s because I’m Irish,” Red replies. The big twist at the end is merely the cherry on an already perfect cake.

Shawshank, and its supernatural sister The Green Mile, also written by King and directed by Darabont, admittedly share several plot similarities yet there’s no denying that Darabont is a master film-maker, especially through adaptation. His only stumbling block has been the self-indulgent and empty mess ‘The Majestic’ starring Jim Carrey, but he’s gone on to write Indy 4 and Mission Impossible 3, as well as remaking Fahrenheit 451. King’s novels are hard to translate to screen (for every Misery there are five Sometimes They Come Back’s), usually because that’s what directors try to do: translate. Darabont’s strength is in putting the story on screen without any of his own input immediately noticable, if at all. This restraint may have cost him the Oscar (Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump were much more viseral) but it also makes the film what it is – a solid, old-fashioned tale of hope and redemption.

Special Features:

Sadly the much anticipated audio commentary wasn’t available for preview but the first of the three-disc boxset includes the movie, the commentary, biographies, memorable quotes, the trailer and an ‘audio description track’.

On disc two is Mark Kermode’s ‘Shawshank: The Redeeming Feature’ documentary and a similarly themed American version called ‘Hope Springs Eternal: A Look Back At The Shawshank Redemption’ which has a Stephen King overview that the former is missing. There is also a spoof of the movie in ‘The Sharktank Redemption’, a stills gallery, more behind the scenes footage, storyboards and lastly The Charlie Rose Show from 2004 (think of him as the yank version of Jeremy Paxman. Shudder).

Disc three has exhaustive interviews with four of the main cast members: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, William Sadler and Clancy Brown who, wouldn’t you know it, is a real sweetie. Highlander is ruined forever. (These interviews are the full uncut interviews by Mark Kermode so you may experience the odd moment of deja vu from his docu on disc two).

Top notch in every respect.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 98%

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