Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: The Shawshank Redemption

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, January 21, 2001

They send you here for life. That’s exactly what they take.

Special features

Awards Listing3
Cast Information4
Production Photographs4

In what might be considered a “forerunner” to “The Green Mile”, Tim Robbins plays Andy Dufresne, a convict in Shawshank prison in this very beautiful, if sugary, story. Highlander fans will also recognize Clancy Brown as the main prison guard.

RecommendationRent Soon!
DirectorFrank Darabont
WritersStephen King, Frank Darabont
Movie Rating7
Transfer Quality7
Overall Rating5
  • Enhanced Widescreen

Writer Frank Darabont adapted a Stephen King short story (“Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”) to make this prison film. Later, he would go on to adapt King’s “The Green Mile” to make the very similar death penalty film of the same name. He also directed another short film, “The Woman in the Room”, also based on a Stephen King story.

This is a movie with a lesson: If you think you’re in a Stephen King tale, never throw your gun away. Even if it isn’t a horror story, it’ll come back to hurt you later. In Andy Dufresne’s case, it meant that he couldn’t prove that the bullets which killed his wife did not come from his gun. Which meant he had to spend twenty years or so locked up in the same prison with Morgan Freeman doing people’s tax returns for free.

This is an intriguing tale. It is not in any way a realistic tale, but Stephen King stories never are. This does not, however, have anything supernatural in it. In that respect it is completely unlike “The Green Mile”. Also unlike “The Green Mile”, it is told from the viewpoint of a prisoner, not a prison guard. It is Morgan Freeman’s character, “Red”, who tells the story of Andy’s life in Shawshank Prison. Freeman is very good in this movie. Somewhere else in my pile of movies to review is “Unforgiven,” which teams Freeman with Clint Eastwood. I picked up both of these movies for a ten-spot each at a Target in Michigan. (They were well worth it.)

Robbins makes a good banker. I’ve always been wary of seeing him in a movie, because he has a look that makes him stand out, a way of walking and emoting that is Tim Robbins as much as it is the character he is playing. You never forget you’re watching Tim Robbins play somebody. I like to forget the actor.

Andy Dufresne goes to prison for a murder he says he didn’t commit. Most of the other people who he meets are also murderers. Non-murderers come and go, but the murderers stay forever. One murderer, an old man who ran the library, had been in so long he’d seen only one or two automobiles his entire life. He was a nice guy. All the murderers were nice guys, except the ones who weren’t. They (“the sisters”) want to have sex with Andy. They’re not nice guys.

A lot of the story is, what do people do with their time when they know they’re going to spend the rest of their life behind bars? Andy does some things that make it worth making a movie about him. This is a somewhat long movie, 142 minutes, partially because it needs to show huge amounts of time passing. But don’t be worried about it: all of that time is interesting. This is one of those rare long movies that doesn’t feel long at all, that you almost wish it wasn’t over with when it was done.

All of the supporting actors are also very good, especially Bob Gunton as the prison warden and Clancy Brown as the “mean” prison guard. Brown was also the Kurgan in “Highlander”, for those of you who have seen that.

The DVD’s extras are disappointing. The cast information section holds information only for Robbins, Freeman, and Darabont. The information given, however, is reasonably detailed. The production photographs are occasionally interesting, but there aren’t very many of them.

What’s most annoying about this is what’s missing, not what’s there. There is nothing about the movie, the making of the movie, and very little about the actors. The only really annoying feature on this DVD is that the movie starts automatically if you don’t do anything—even if you just finished watching the movie and are sitting back talking about it at the main menu. I guess they figure that since there’s nothing useful on the DVD except the movie anyway, nobody would leave the disk in unless they were going to watch the movie right away.

If you liked “The Green Mile”, you will almost certainly like “The Shawshank Redemption”. Because of the lack of supernatural elements, you’ll probably like it even if you didn’t like “The Green Mile”. If you can get it for a good price, I recommend buying it, but definitely at least rent it to see it.

Recommendation: Rent Soon!

DirectorFrank Darabont
WritersStephen King, Frank Darabont
ActorsTim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown
Spoken languagesEnglish, French
SubtitlesEnglish, French
Special FeaturesAwards Listing, Cast Information, Production Photographs, Trailer
More links

If you enjoyed The Shawshank Redemption…

For more about Clancy Brown, you might also be interested in Highlander.

For more about Stephen King, you might also be interested in Salem’s Lot.

For more about Tim Robbins, you might also be interested in The Player.