Sunday, 12 September 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 362

4 - The Shawshank Redemption - 5 stars
It is nice to see that over time justice is done and people realise truly great films even if they don't initially. For in 1995 Forrest Gump won Best Picture Oscar ahead of Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction. Now both of these are in the top ten whilst Gump is sitting on his park bench eating chocolates at a lowly 242.
Shawshank didn't really find its audience until it was released on home video and now regularly features near the top of every 'favourite film' or 'best film ever made' lists, but does it really deserve its place so high up the list?
There was a little bit of cynicism in my mind when I popped the DVD in the player as it had been several years since I had seen it and I have built up a natural suspicion of films that are so universally accepted, like It's A Wonderful Life. But just liked that film, my cynicism was quickly washed away once it started and enjoyed it from the first minute to the last.
Isn't it funny how the best films based on Stephen King books tend to be the ones that are not supernatural i.e. The Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, Misery. Of course, The Shining is the obvious exception.
A superior prison drama that slow burns its way through everyday life in the prison as Dufrense refuses to conform to the instituitionalisation that affects the other 'lifers' and makes various attempts to 'break out' and avoid the pain of being imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit or being raped in the showers. He makes a plan to "get busy living, or get busy dying" whether it be providing banking advice for the guards or money laundering for the warden, or playing the opera aria over the prison radio system.
The nice thing about Shawshank is that it doesn't tip its hand too early regarding the Andy Dufrense's actual liberation from prison. This is due to the fact that the main character is actually Red, played by Morgan Freeman who really found his niche in the market as the elderly statesman narrator. We discover the twist in the tale at the exact same time as he does, and it is an incredibly satisfying moment as several minor threads come together for the big reveal.
Yes, it might be a safe and easy choice for some people when asked for their favourite film of all time, but it is a good film and while not my pick for the top spot, there are certainly worse films they could choose.
Days remaining - 3 Films remaining - 3

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