Matt’s review published on Letterboxd:
I think The Shawshank Redemption might be the most universally appealing movie in existence. Not only because it’s famously #1 on IMDb, but because it’s (virtually) impossible to not enjoy this movie. It’s a universal and timeless story that only gets better every time I watch it.
It’s brilliantly rich themes of hope, despair, redemption (obviously), friendship, strength, justice, mercy, forgiveness and growth are examined and executed in a way that resonates with both hardcore cinephiles and general audiences. The movie isn’t too artsy-fartsy to disinterest people nor is it too tame to be forgotten. Shawshank perfectly connects the audience to the relatable and good-hearted characters Andy and Red (played by Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman) while simultaneously beating the hell out of the two men - especially Andy - in a way that makes viewers desperately care about what happens to them. I should also mention that the side characters are very memorable as well. This film definitely wants to show that all of these men who have made mistakes are still redeemable humans. It’s a simple message but is nevertheless very powerful. This film is a character study through-and-through and the story is as effective as it is because the characters are humanized flawlessly.
I love the writing and the directing. The script is heartwarming, tragic, brutal, beautiful and at times hilarious. The cinematography and score are both excellent as well. Shawshank is also a movie full of iconic scenes and lines. Some of my favorites are “Brooks was here”, “some birds aren’t meant to be caged”, “The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry”, the music playing over the p.a. system scene, Andy doing peoples taxes, the beer drinking scene on the roof, the ending sequence and Andy and Red meeting each other for the first time.
I also love the pacing of the film. I’m never bored with how the story and the characters develop. We get plenty of time to live with these characters and learn who they really are. And just when the movie could begin to seem monotonous a new character is introduced that effects the plot in a huge way. At almost exactly the 1 hr mark something substantial happens that essentially breaks the movie into two halves. It’s as if though the second hour of the film parallels the first hour but with a few different twists and turns thrown in. And of course, the legendary ending to the movie is about as heartwarming as any movie I’ve ever seen.
Some movies are just perfect. Some movies deserve all the hype and praise in the world. This is one of those movies. This film absolutely belongs in the same category as 2001, The Godfather, 12 Angry Men, Casablanca etc. The Shawshank Redemption is loved by basically everyone who has seen it and for good reason. It’s a genuine masterpiece. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it. I’m sure you’ll love it.