Convicted of murdering his wife and her lover, Tim Robbins is sentenced to serveconsecutive life sentences at the horrific Shawshank prison. He looks like the sort who wouldn’tlast a week in such circumstances, let alone decades, but he survives, and begins to transformall around him, most prominently long-time resident and operator Morgan Freeman. Robbinsnever gives up his dream of freedom, however, and so the film is, in some ways, about thelongest prison escape ever. But…the escape is in two senses: physical and spiritual.
It is perhaps because the film operates so very much on the allegorical level that it hasachieved such enormous, deeply felt popularity after its initial lackluster box-office performance.And even if one doesn’t buy the whole redemption angle (a resistance that is perfectlyunderstandable), the film is still an extraordinary achievement, with quietly mesmerizingperformances and storyline. It’s funny how many truly great filmed stories have been set inprisons.
The audio is a frustrating experience, being simultaneously very impressive and enormouslydisappointing. On the positive side, the music sounds wonderful, with a very rich bass. The left-right separation is spectacular, as is the isolation of the dialogue from background noise. On thedebit side, the surround is virtually non-existent. Thus, scenes like Robbins’ arrival in theraucous prison yard are sapped of a lot of potential power.
There are no such disappointments with the picture, however. The image is crisp and freeof grain or edge enhancement. The colours are strong, in that moody, cloudy, gloomy fashionthe film adopts. An excellent transfer.
Disc 1 has the theatrical trailer and a commentary by writer/director Frank Darabont. Thisis his first stab at this kind of thing, and he does a fine job, regaling viewers with plenty ofbehind-the-scenes technical details and anecdotes in a most eloquent manner.
Disc 2 has two documentaries: a half-hour retrospective by the cast and crew (“Hope SpringsEternal: A Look Back at The Shawshank Redemption”) and a 48-minute piece hosted bycritic Frank Kermode that examines the film’s appeal (“Shawshank: The Redeeming Feature”).The short “The Sharktank Redemption” is a witty spoof that transposes the story to a Hollywoodtalent agency. Also provided are the Charlie Rose interview with Darabont, Robbins andFreeman, and galleries of stills and storyboards. The “Collectibles” feature is merely an add forSideshow Collectibles. A DVD-ROM Weblink is present on both discs. The menu’s main screenis animated and scored.
A solid package, even though the sound has some disappointing aspects. The film remainsone of the best adaptations of Stephen King’s work.
Special Features List
- “Hope Springs Eternal: A Look Back at The Shawshank Redemption” Documentary
- “Shawshank: The Redeeming Feature” Documentary
- Charlie Rose Interview
- Stills and Storyboard Galleries
- “The Sharktank Redemption” Short
- Theatrical Trailer
- DVD-ROM Weblink