The Shawshank Redemption DVD cover art

Film:
DVD:

Written by: Frank Darabont, based on the novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
Directed by: Frank Darabont
Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown

Features:

  • Running audio commentary by writer/director Darabont
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Two retrospective docus
  • Charlie Rose interviews
  • Parody: “The SharkTank Redemption”
  • Photo galleries
  • Storyboards

Released by: Warner Brothers
Region: 1
Rating: R
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: Fans should own.

Andy Dufresne (Robbins) is convicted of murdering his wife in a fit of jealous rage. Sent to prison, he makes a number of friends, among them Red (Freeman), the bootleg acquisitions expert for the prison. However, though trapped inside the walls, Andy refuses to become completely broken, and as a result teaches many of his fellow prisoners something about hope and redemption.

This film is beloved by many, and is arguably the best Stephen King adaptation, not to mention the closest to its source material. It’s first and foremost a testament to the scribing and helming powers of Darabont, who seems to be able to understand King’s work better than anybody else in Hollywood. His direction and composition of shots (along with cinematographer Roger Deakins) is just about flawless. And what additions he made to the story and characters feel so organic, you’d swear that those bits were from the primary source material.

Of course, the acting is priceless. Robbins makes Andy a portrait of enigmatic strength and Freeman, whose character carries us through the film, acts so well that his performance is seamless. There’s nothing better than an actor who doesn’t even appear to be acting. Also in need of mention are the supporting cast: Gunton and Brown are pure iconic evil (something touched upon in one of the featurettes). Still, the standout among the supporting players is James Whitmore as librarian Brooks.

Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman from The Shawshank Redemption

Tim Robbins as Andy and Morgan Freeman as Red

Granted, the film is not without its problems. While it’s good, it could have been perfect had they shaved the last minute off the film (which apparently, as uncovered in the features, was how the original script ended) and re-edited the coda to keep some tension for a little longer. But the movie is already, it just could have been better.

The good news is that the DVD treatment is finally worthy. The commentary is the high point of the entire deal, and is one of the best I’ve heard in a while. It’s Darabont flying solo and he covers pretty much everything you could want from such a spiel: behind the scenes stuff, humorous anecdotes, and info regarding casting. For his first commentary, it’s quite balanced and well thought out.

The two featurettes, one new featuring practically everyone (including King) and the 2001 BBC one, are both good and worthwhile to watch. Bear in mind that there is some overlap between these two and the commentary, but not enough to make you feel like you’re wasting your time. The Charlie Rose interviews with Darabont, Robbins and Freeman are worthwhile entries on the set giving you some nice facetime with the three participants.

Frank Darabont from The Shawshank Redemption

An interesting inclusion is the parody “The SharkTank Redemption”–interesting in that it dumps the story of our heroes into an office setting and does so with Alfonso Freeman (Morgan’s son) taking on that version of his father’s role. Beyond that, the normal galleries and storyboards are provided.

The disc is not anywhere near stacked enough for our tastes, but we’re picky bastards. A commentary track from Freeman and Robbins would have been a nice addition, and it would have been nice to have some more unique information scattered among what we do have here. But still, for a film that, as is pointed out more than once, positively tanked on its inaugural run and only became a fan favorite on video, this is a nice present to those fans.

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