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The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
A great adaptation of a great book.
I have this film on DVD and it's one of my favourites. That said, it's been several years since I sat down and watched it and I hoped it was still as good as I remembered. It might be worth pointing out here that I've been a huge Stephen King fan since I was at school, probably a good 30 years all told. I have every book in general circulation, and I've read a lot of them more than once. Different Seasons must have been one of the first books of his that I bought when it first came out, way back in '82 or '83. It's a collection of four unrelated novellas, other than that each title has a different season mentioned in the subtitle. The first of the novellas is Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption: Hope Springs Eternal, and it is, in my opinion, by far the best. If you haven't read it, I would thoroughly recommend it, particularly if you haven't seen the film as the movie stuck pretty closely to the original story so there won't be many surprises in store for you otherwise. Incidentally, if you've ever seen Rob Reiner's movie Stand by Me or Bryan Singer's Apt Pupil you'll find two of the other stories in the collection pretty familiar too. But I digress, back to the movie in question.
I wasn't disappointed. This is undoubtedly a great movie and thoroughly deserves it's place at the top of the list. The performances from Tim Robbins & Morgan Freeman are superb and the friendship between their characters develops over 20 years or so is entirely believable. You see them, particularly Freeman, get gradually broken and institutionalised as the film plays out. And then, of course, you get that fantastic feel- good ending that you really wanted, but somehow never actually expected. But it's not just the performances from Robbins and Freeman that delight. Both Bob Gunton, the sadistic and greedy warden who somehow believes he is doing God's work, and Clancy Brown (remember him as the Kurgan in Highlander?) as the equally sadistic, almost sociopathic Captain Hadley, give wonderfully sinister performances.
Most of the other prisoners, with the possible exception of James Whitmore's Brooks, are fairly two-dimensional, but then the director almost seems to gloss over them deliberately to keep the viewer's attention firmly directed towards the two leads and their developing bond.
The film begins in the 1940s, and continues on until the 1960s so it was essentially a period piece when it was made. This has stopped it becoming dated in any way. Also, because it's set in a prison which appears almost completely isolated from the outside word, the passage of time is easy to miss. The movie is as engrossing now as it was 15+ years ago when it was first released. At two and quarter hours, it's probably one of the longer films in the list (although by no means the longest), but it keeps the viewer's attention for the full duration, and never seems to lose its sense of direction. Every scene pushes the plot forward in some way.
A definite 10/10 from me, and thoroughly recommended.