The Shawshank Redemption would have been the best movie of the year any year. Except 1994, when it was released. That was also the year of Forrest Gump. Talk about an embarassment of riches! We'll deal with Gump later; now, let's take a quick look at Shawshank:
The Good: This movie is one where I can truly say, it's all good. Understand that I'd already seen, and felt allegience to, Forrest Gump. So, I went into seeing Shawshank with a bias against liking the picture. I also am not the biggest fan of prison stories. I walked out of the theatre and LOVED the movie.
Normally, a voice-over narration is seen as a weakness in a movie's structure; the visual narrative ought to tell the story, and not an omniscient voice-over. Here, Morgan Freeman's dulcet, understated tones set the stage for a helluva story, with a great twist of an ending. Freeman,who is perhaps the leading light in American cinema, gives a bravura performance as Red, the world-weary con who befriends Tim Robbins's Andy, a newbie convicted of killing his wife and her lover. Tim Robbinsgives the performance of his career, eclipsing even that classic, Bull Durham,with his subtlety and sure acting touch. Strong performances also were given by all the supporting cast, including William Sadler as a fellow inmate, Bob Gunton as the oily, conniving warden, and Clancy Brownas the sadistic but opportunistic head guard. This movie should have, and would have, won the Best Picture Oscar, had it not been for Gump. That circumstance of timing does not diminish the power and quality of the picture, though. The Shawshank Redemption is one of the best movies I have seen in the past 30 years or so.
The Bad: Nothing, really. I suppose one might have a mild problem with some of the subject matter, particularly the gay rape scenes, as well as some of the relatively mild violence. But the former is mostly implied, and the latter is pretty tame by today's standards.
The Bottom Line: Five Flicks. See this movie. Really.