There are movies you watch once and forget you ever saw them, and there are movies that make you want to watch them over and over again. Just like well-written books, such movies can tell you the same story in different ways, making you feel or learn something new every time you rediscover it. And although there are tens of thousands of movies, perhaps only a hundred movies or so can make you want to return to them again. One of such films is “The Shawshank Redemption,” a Hollywood adaptation of Stephen King’s novella “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.” Filmed in 1994 by Frank Darabont, this film still remains on top of various charts and ratings, including the #1 position on IMDB, which definitely makes it a must-see movie for any sophisticated and educated viewer.
Generally speaking, “The Shawshank Redemption” is a story about willpower and hope, about how a single man can reverse the course of fate even when it seems like the whole world is against him. It is a story of a banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) who was wrongly accused of committing the double murder of his wife and her lover. All the evidence was against Andy, and even though he was innocent, he could not prove his alibi, and was condemned to two life imprisonments in Shawshank: one of the harshest prisons in the state.
At first, Andy is crushed. From the life of a well-provided and respectable member of society, he falls into the hell of prison cells, sadistic security guards, and humiliation. On Andy’s arrival, one of the inmates who was transferred to Shawshank together with him is beaten to death by Byron Hadley, head of the prison’s security. Prison warden Norton, although being seemingly religious and moral, in fact allows and covers the crimes committed by his guards, running his own shady schemes.
Unaccustomed to this side of life, Andy soon realizes that this is his new reality from now on. As every inmate in the prison must have an occupation, Andy is assigned to work in the laundry. There he is attacked by a local gang known as the “Sisters”; their leader, Bogs, and other gang members regularly harass and sexually assault Andy. After awhile, Andy meets Red (Morgan Freeman)—an old inmate who smuggles various goods on the prison’s territory using his contraband channels. Rather soon, they become friends, and Andy asks Red to get him a geological hammer, explaining this strange request with his love for mineralogy. He also asks for several other things, including posters with movie stars.
Soon after this, Andy, as a specialist skilled in everything regarding law and finance, gives Hadley advice on how to avoid paying taxes when getting an inheritance; Hadley reports this to Norton, who quickly realizes that Andy would be extremely useful regarding his illegal financial affairs. He sends Hadley to deal with the Sisters; head of security beats Bogs so hard that he makes him a cripple. After this, the Sisters leave Andy alone, and Norton makes him run the prison library instead of working in the laundry; in return, Andy creates a fictitious person named Randall Stephens, and launders huge amounts of money for Norton using this disguise.
Although it may seem that the prison’s management is now more loyal to Andy, in fact they are using him. Once him and Red meet Tommy—a new inmate accused of burglary—they make friends, and Andy teaches Tommy to read and to write, preparing him for passing the GED test. One day, Tommy tells Andy how he heard that there was an inmate in another prison who committed a double murder killing a woman and her lover, and then the woman’s husband, a banker, was wrongfully accused of it. Andy realizes that he now does not have to spend two life terms in prison, and tries to convince Norton to reconsider his case in the light of the new circumstances. However, Andy now knows too much about Norton’s and Hadley’s deeds, and of course, Norton cannot let Andy go. Instead, he sends him to a solitary confinement cell for an unusually long term, and while Andy is there, orders Hadley to kill Tommy so that the information about Andy being innocent would not spread further.
After two months of confinement, Andy is released from the solitary cell. He meets Red and tells him about his dream: escaping to the Mexican coastal town of Zihuatanejo where no one can find him, and where he could live in peace. He also instructs Red to visit a specific field in Buxton, where Andy would leave a package for him when Red is released from jail. Red supposes that solitary confinement has made Andy lose a grip on reality.
On the next day, prison guards notice that Andy’s cell is empty. Norton, mad about Andy’s disappearance, throws a rock into a movie poster hanging on the wall, and sees that there is a tunnel hidden behind it. Using the rock hammer Red smuggled for him, Andy has been digging his way out the whole time he was in prison. He had to climb through sewers to get out, but he managed to escape. Using the money he laundered for Norton and the fake personality he created, Andy disappeared—previously informing authorities about Norton’s and Hadley’s corruption. Norton commits suicide, and Hadley is arrested.
The movie ends with a beautiful scene. Red is released from prison. Trying to adapt to normal life after 40 years in prison, he remembers Andy’s words about Zihuatanejo and his instructions. Red travels to Buxton, where he finds a cache with money and a letter, asking him to meet Andy in the town of his dream. The final scene shows Red walking towards Andy along a shoreline.