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The Shawshank Redemption

Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free. 

Year: 1994 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Frank Darabont 
Starring: Tom Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, Clancy Brown  
An image from The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption. Where to start? What a film. The Shawshank Redemption tells the story of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a successful banker who is sentenced to two consecutive life sentences after being found guilty of a crime he did not commit. The film portrays Andy’s unique way of dealing with this new and tortuous life and chronicles the friends - most notably a wise long-term inmate named Red (Morgan Freeman), and enemies – especially ‘The Sisters’ and the warden - he makes along the way. The film itself does not try and present prison life as cushy or comfortable, indeed it depicts prison life in Shawshank as very brutal but such brutality is essential and helps to convey just what an incredible and resilient character Andy is. For many, the best film of all time, The Shawshank Redemption is a truly remarkable tale of one man’s courage and his stubborn refusal to give up hope despite the terrible situation in which he finds himself. A truly inspirational and life affirming film about the power of hope and perseverance which will give you goosebumps and make you cry in equal measure. Could not come more highly recommended. Utterly brilliant.

Hamish Brown

Many of the works of Stephen King have now been adapted for the cinema, with such fare varying rather wildly in terms of quality. However, it has been almost universally acknowledged that Frank Darabont provided the greatest translation of King’s prose with 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption: a tender prison drama with an emotional grip that few films have eclipsed (before or since).

In 1947, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is convicted of murdering his wife and her illicit lover on circumstantial evidence, and is given two consecutive life sentences at Shawshank State Penitentiary. Over the next few decades, Andy becomes close friends with fellow inmate Ellis “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman), and works his way to BNOP status as he begins to launder money for the prison guards and the smooth-talking warden, Samuel Norton (Bob Gunton).

Despite the fact that it clocks in at a meaty 142 minutes, The Shawshank Redemption breezes by with such assuredness and pathos that not a single moment feels wasted. The cogs working to provide such a cadenced cinematic experience boil down to a number of key players, but the most integral factor is the central bond between Andy and Red. Robbins and Freeman perform in their roles with such a delicate, humane chemistry that their story of friendship resonates more deeply than any buddy comedy you’d care to name.

If – unthinkably – you still haven’t seen this film, there’s no better time to catch it than on the big screen of the Warwick Student Cinema. At the time of writing, The Shawshank Redemption is perched neatly atop the IMDB Top 250, and don’t expect it to slip a few notches anytime soon. With its sweeping poignancy, vividly-drawn universe, and the archetypal narration from the oaky-voiced Freeman, it skates miraculously close to perfection.

Michael Perry

Andy Dufresne (Robbins) is an innocent man, thrown into Shawshank prison after the murder of his wife and her lover. An accountant on the outside, Dufresne needs to toughen up if he’s to survive the hardened criminals lurking round every corner. Help comes in the form of Ellis “Red” Redding (Freeman), a convict of twenty years and a man who knows how to get things on the inside.

We follow Andy’s exploits as he first comes to terms and plays along with the demands of State Penitentiary life. Rapists after fresh meat; violent guards dishing out beatings; a warden with a penchant for fraud; just some of the undesirables he must deal with.

On the flip side, Andy develops a strong bond with Red. His skills earn him better living conditions and improvements in the prisoners’ library. But he’s not satisfied. He will never be satisfied. Incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit, he longs for the one thing he truly deserves – freedom.

Lukewarm audience figures; no success at the Oscars; you’d be forgiven for expecting a run of the mill movie… nothing special. How wrong you’d be. Shawshank is often declared the greatest film of all time. That Morgan Freeman had to wait another ten years for his recognition was wrong… that Frank Darabont is still waiting leaves the Academy in need of redemption. Don’t make the same mistake as Hollywood. Whether you’re new to Shawshank or have seen it a dozen times, make sure to see this all time classic where it belongs – on the big screen.

Robert Gardner

Based faithfully on a Stephen King novella, Shawshank tells the tale of a set of inmates posed with the challenge of surviving the dreariness of prison life, attempting to find hope for the future wherever they can.

We follow the woeful case of Andy Dufresne (Robbins), an honest accountant wrongly convicted for the murder of his wife and her lover. Thrown in at the deep end, Dufresne struggles to cope as the fresh blood among men hardened by many years inside. Fortunately, he soon finds support and friendship in old-hand Red (Freeman) and his cohort.

Red is the man to know; he can get you anything you want from the outside and sneak it in, no questions asked. But he is a worn old man who’s paid his whole adult life for an adolescent mistake, and he yearns for his overdue release. And worse - if it ever comes, will he be able to cope with the fast pace of modern life beyond four walls?

As the years go by, Red and Dufresne find ways to keep themselves entertained, and come into conflict with the prison authorities regularly. Sometimes they triumph and sometimes they submit, but will they ever attain their ultimate redemption?

This film is a true masterpiece. Though simple in its premise, director Frank Darabont expertly portrays the broad palette of human emotion: misery, joy, desperation … but most of all, hope.

Robbins executes the performance of his career as the timid man struggling silently against his oppressors, and Freeman plays the wise old gent whose smile could brighten the darkest day to his very best.

A classic of modern cinema and a favourite of many, it’s unforgivable to miss this gem – whether it’s your first or your fifth viewing.

Owen Rye

In 1947, Andy Dufresne (Robbins) is sent to Shawshank prison to serve out two life sentences for the murders of his wife and her lover. Targeted by the prisons "Sisters", a group of thugs who rape and torment Andy, he never stops protesting his innocence and has inside him a spirit and resolve that four prison walls cannot crush. On the outside he'd been the Vice President of a bank and is soon able to put his skills to use in the prison to win favour with the warden and the guards. In exchange he is allowed to improve the prison library, manages to escape abuse and brings some dignity back to the lives of the other inmates. Most remarkably, Andy strikes up a friendship with Red (Freeman) a convicted murderer, and one of the few inmates to actually confess to his guilt. When Andy asks Red to get him a small rock hammer so he can carve a chess set out of rocks, no one could possibly imagine the consequences.

From a Stephen King novella and remaining completely faithful to the text, this film did not do well at the box office, but has since found a place in film history and is repeatedly voted as one of the greatest of all time by audiences and critics alike. At a basic level, this is a love story of two friends and what they come to mean to each other over a period of many years. Andy is an incredible man who, because he knows he is innocent cannot be truly incarcerated. He is raped, beaten, thrown into isolation for weeks on end and threatened with the destruction of everything he has worked for, but he endures. There are touching moments in the film where Andy effectively destroys the prison walls and brings freedom to the hearts of every man in Shawshank, like when he hijacks the tannoy system and plays out opera music to the whole prison. This is a beautiful film whose creators give the impression it was made, not just as a piece of entertainment, or to make money, but because it actually meant something to someone.

Hannah Upton

This movie has everything. It’s well written, well directed, well cast, well acted, funny, suspenseful, uplifting and cathartically depressing. Whats more, it has universal appeal. I have never met anyone who did not absolutely love this movie.

Tim Robbins plays Andy Dufresne, an ex-banker convicted of killing his wife and her lover in a gruesome and bloody fashion. He is sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment and is sent to Shawshank Prison, home to many others of his kind. Andy, however, isn’t a nutcase, or anything like it. He is in fact a quiet and pensive man, and a very likeable person. Ellis ‘Red’ Redding takes to him after their first conversation, and they become good friends.

Shawshank Prison, however, is corrupt and rife with violence and horror. Men have their lives beaten out of them by Warden Norton’s chief of security. ‘The Sisters’, a bunch of homosexual men, take a liking to Andy, and make his first two years at the prison a living hell. After Andy is found to be a more than apt banker, he is used as the warden’s ‘pet’, and is tasked with banking and cleaning the warden’s corrupt and ‘dirty’ money.

The Shawshank Redemption is a stunning film. It conveys a gloomy and depressing site, but with bright and often amusing people in it. Morgan Freeman adds a lot to the film by telling the story, and he captures the character of ‘Red’ in the highest degree. Tim Robbins plays a very good Andy- quiet and somewhat shy. In fact, it’s a great cast all round.

Every aspect of this film is magnificent. “Salvation lies within,” advises Warden Norton at one point. It is the presentation of this theme that makes The Shawshank Redemption unique. Prison movies often focus on the violence and hopelessness of a life behind bars. While this film includes those elements, it makes them peripheral. The Shawshank Redemption is all about hope and, because of that, watching it is both uplifting and cathartic. I recommend this film to everyone out there.

Dom Mellor

'Shawshank' has indeed achieved a somewhat rare success. Not being a conventional Hollywood movie in the sense of action, sex and more action and sex; it has won fine reviews across the board, whilst still managing to appeal to wider public tastes.

The story begins with the conviction of Andy Dufresne (Robbins) for murder, of which he is innocent. We follow his arrival at, and subsequent adaptations to life at, Shawshank State Prison, where he is to serve his double life sentence.

Shawshank is bleak, corrupt and violent, with its own hierarchy of psycho nutters and manipulative guards.

Dufresne's initial experiences are violent attacks by inmates, including an attempted rape. He is eventually befriended by "Red" (Freeman) and over the course of his sentence, begins to create his own prison culture, which attempts to maintain a balance between his own strong set of values without the risk of disrupting the corrupt game-plan of the other inmates and the wardens.

The distinctive edge that sets Shawshank above the other movies of a similar genre is fine performances from typically second-billing actors. Robbins and Freeman are realistic, and along with fine direction and superb historical accuracy, the mood of the film is hard to fault. The ending, without giving too much away, is ironic and clever although not entirely unexpected.

Sam Hillyard (Archive)

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Screenings of this film:

1994/1995 Summer Term (35mm)
1995/1996 Spring Term (35mm)
1995/1996 Spring Term (35mm)
1996/1997 Summer Term (35mm)
1996/1997 Summer Term (35mm)
1999/2000 Spring Term (35mm)
2004/2005 Autumn Term (35mm)
2004/2005 Autumn Term (35mm)
2006/2007 Spring Term (35mm)
2006/2007 Spring Term (35mm)
2008/2009 Spring Term (35mm)
2008/2009 Spring Term (35mm)
2011/2012 Autumn Term (35mm)
2013/2014 Autumn Term (digital)
2016/2017 Spring Term (35mm)
2016/2017 Spring Term (35mm)
2021/2022 Summer Term (digital)
2021/2022 Summer Term (digital)