“Like an old friend or a security blanket, I know I always have something to comfort me when I’m feeling down.”
God I love this movie. In one year so much of my life has changed, but it’s nice to know that I have one constant that is always there for me. I know that I already wrote a review of The Shawshank Redemption, but I wasn’t kidding when I said that I could talk about this movie for hours; hell, maybe even days. The Shawshank Redemption is a movie that I love for reasons that I couldn’t even begin to count, but I’m going to try and walk you through them. Hell, who am I kidding? No one reads these things. This is just a way for me to feel as though I’m sharing my thoughts with someone, even though these thoughts get posted to my website and then immediately forgotten by the world (myself included). Anyway, enough with the pity party, let’s get into it.
The Shawshank Redemption is a special movie for me because it is one of the first (if not the first) movies to make me realize that I had missed out on so many great films that were made before my time. When I was just a young lad I decided that I would culture myself by watching the greatest movies the world has ever seen. Where did I go to get this list, you ask? IMDB, of course! It is the International Movie Database. That means that only the best and brightest are allowed admittance, and every word on that site is the word of God himself. I’m getting a little carried away (and mean, if I do say so myself), but when I was that young boy I went on IMDB and saw that the number one movie on the top 250 list on the site was none other than The Shawshank Redemption. I went down to my local movie store and I spent some of my mom’s money to buy a copy of this film on DVD, because I just had to see what all of the fuss was about. What I found completely changed my view. When I was that age I wasn’t exactly as open-minded. I was a movie buff (I guess you could say, even though I hate that turn of phrase), but I mainly kept to the recent stuff so I could hold a conversation on the playground during recess. The Shawshank Redemption changed that, showing me that by just sticking to what is new and popular that I was missing out on a whole new world. This is a view that stuck with me throughout the years, and has allowed me to keep an open mind toward (most) movies that I see.
What else do I love about The Shawshank Redemption? Well I love that the message of the film isn’t one that is necessary to your enjoyment of the story. I’m probably not going to be blowing any minds here (well I definitely won’t be blowing any minds, because nobody reads these things), but Andy Dufresne is not the main character in The Shawshank Redemption. In my last review I wrote that you get to see Shawshank through Andy’s eyes, but I was wrong; you see Shawshank through Red’s eyes. As soon as the movie starts (the real movie, when all of the fresh fish get to Shawshank) who is it that is guiding the story? None other than Morgan Freeman’s sultry voice. Red is the man who is our narrator, but that fact may get lost on some due to most parts of the film being about Andy. So in a way the film is about Andy, but what really matters is Red. The film is called The Shawshank Redemption, but who is getting redemption? Many can say that Andy is the one being redeemed, because he escapes from the hell that is Shawshank, but I propose something different. The movie isn’t about Andy, remember? The Shawshank Redemption is a movie about Red being redeemed by the character of Andy. Well how does that work? (the imaginary person in my head asks, enthusiastically) Well let me tell you. Red is a man who is constantly denied parole, so much so that he and the other inmates joke that they have “denial hearings” instead of parole hearings. Red, much like any normal man, is a man who has lost all hope. He is in Shawshank for life, and there is no point in wasting time fretting about it. That’s life, deal with it. In comes Andy, a “tall drink of water with a silver spoon up his ass”, a man who walks around as though he were strolling through a park. Red sees Andy and mistakes these actions for arrogance, but when he comes to know Andy he learns that Andy has what very few men have: Hope. Andy doesn’t so much teach Red, but Red learns all the same that hope is an important thing to have; especially in a place like Shawshank. The most important lesson in this class is one that doesn’t even come from Andy but from Brooks, a man who has been in Shawshank practically his whole life. Brooks lost hope, and shortly after he was released Red received a letter from him that outlined his fate. He couldn’t make it in the outside world, because instead of focusing on how he would make it, he was preoccupied with self-pity and pessimism. Red saw this and something clicked in his head. It wasn’t instantaneous, but something definitely clicked. The crux of this lesson is when Andy finally escaped Shawshank. Red was happy for his friend, talking about how you can’t cage birds and all that, but he was also defeated. This is Red’s lowest point. Red makes it out of Shawshank because the parole board finally sees want they’ve wanted to see all along: a broken man. They don’t want prisoners leaving with a spiring in their step, because this world is dark. Red, now being a free man, almost went down the same path as Brooks. He wrestled with the idea of committing another crime in the hopes of being re-admitted to Shawshank, and I’m sure he even wrestled with the idea of taking himself out like old Brooks. But something was different with Red; unlike Brooks Red had something that Andy had given long before: Hope. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to get him out to Buxton to find the old wheat field with the rock wall that stretches out to an old tree. It was enough to get him to kneel down in the dirt and move rocks, looking for the one that was out of place. And it was enough to get him to open that old, rusted tin and read the letter that was inside. The letter was the final nail in the coffin; Red was redeemed. Shawshank didn’t break him. Much like Andy Red was able to crawl through a river of shit and come out clean on the other side. He was finally free.
I don’t know what possessed me to write all of that information that is pretty much public knowledge, but I just feel like I owe it to this movie to praise it as much as I can. No matter what goes on in my life: my lack of friends, my non-existent social life, my almost constant existential crises; The Shawshank Redemption will always be there for me. Like an old friend or a security blanket, I know I always have something to comfort me when I’m feeling down.