This film has been sitting in my ‘charity shop haul’ collection for a while now and one way or another I’ve just never had the chance to actually watch it. This feature is listed as the most highly rated feature film ever on IMDB, this alone made me curious as to what was – and still is – so special about the feature. The film has not been recognised by the academy and doesn’t even feature many a-list celebs; aside from Morgan Freeman, but even then this was his ‘breakout’ role back in 1994. Despite all of this, over 70% of users rated the feature a 9 or 10 on the site, so here’s my opinion on the supposed ‘best feature of all time’.
The feature follows the story of “Andy Dufresne”, a young and successful banker whose life changes drastically, when he is convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife and her lover. Set in the 1940s, the film shows how “Andy”, with the help of his friend “Red” the prison entrepreneur, turns out to be a most unconventional prisoner. While both Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman shine as “Andy” and “Red”, the best acting comes from the rest of the amazing supporting cast, who disappear into their roles with ease. Most notable of these, the veteran film star James Whitmore portraying the elderly “Brooks Hatlen”; a man haven been locked up for a crime for so long, that he finds himself mentally attached to the Shawshank prison and the routine life he leads.
The most beautiful part of the film lies within its thematic material, such as it’s focus on human desire for concepts like hope and freedom. These themes are so intricately woven into the plot that they draw the audience into its story with ease; though full of hardened criminals, your heart will go out to these men as they display the most basic of human emotions and deliver some of the most quotable lines in a film to date.
Like a great novel, this film manages to succeed at greater things than simply entertaining an audience. Darabont tells his story most masterfully, illustrating principles and inspiring his audience to think; he leaves us with a poignant film with a powerful message of hope and redemption.
Although at first when watching this film it may not seem that special, now writing this and reflecting on the themes and the acting, I can see why IMDB rate this feature so highly. I think something should be said also for the lack of special effects and high-budgeting that this film includes; proving that films thriving off this in the modern-day don’t come even close to the quality of features such as this.