Play It Again – The Shawshank Redemption


By Jess Lomas
August 1, 2013

Play It Again is a weekly feature in which our classic-film connoisseurs revisit a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line (hey, whatever; it fits!).

A tale of overcoming adversity, the triumph of the human spirit, and the power of friendship, set in a men’s prison circa 1946. It hardly stands out on paper as a film that would rank as the all-time favourite for so many, but director Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption, an adaptation of Stephen King’s novella, has developed a cult following since its 1994 release.

After being convicted of the shooting murder of his wife and her lover, straight-laced banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is sent to Shawshank State Penitentiary in Maine to serve two life sentences. Inside he discovers who to avoid (the “Sisters” intent of having their way with him), and those who’ll look out for him, including fellow-lifer Ellis “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman), who can get him anything he wants.


We follow Andy’s progress over two decades as he gains favour with the prison guards, dispensing financial advice in exchange for preferential treatment and protection. His skills eventually see him helping Warden Norton (Bob Gunton) launder money obtained from exploiting prisoners for labour. When he hears about an inmate at another penitentiary claiming responsibility for the murders he is serving time for, he appeals to the Warden for a new investigation. Andy’s pleas are ignored, inspiring him to put a secret, twenty-year plan into motion.

The film barely covered its budget upon its cinematic release; even its seven Oscar nominations struggled to raise its profile as home entertainment would in later years. While it requires patience to fully appreciate the rare male friendship captured, it still holds up on multiple viewings. It also marks the first time Freeman would add narration; his trademark drawl, perfectly suited to this film, would wind up a curse on movie narration for years to come.

Just how much one loves this picture is dependent on their emotional investment in Andy and Red (performed strongly by Robbins and Freeman). As the film stays true to the prison story formula, stereotypical characters included, it is these performances that draw you in and keep you watching.


The Shawshank Redemption is available on Quickflix.

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