Robbins, Freeman shine in prison film

By Doug Cummings

Arizona Daily Wildcat

One of the best films this year, "The Shawshank Redemption," is an awe-inspiring movie based on an early Stephen King story taken from the same collection as "The Body" ("Stand By Me") and "Different Seasons."

The movie stars Tim Robbins ("The Player" and "Bob Roberts") as Andy Dufresne, a successful banker who is convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. He is sent to Shawshank, a large Ohio prison, for a double-life sentence.

While there, Andy befriends the story's narrator, Red, played by Morgan Freeman ("Driving Miss Daisy") who has already spent 20 years in Shawshank. It is Andy's determination not to give up on life that touches Red and those around him.

"The Shawshank Redemption" is a "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" for the 90s.

The movie is writer/director Frank Darabont's first feature film, though his work is constructed with the restraint and emotional verity associated with experienced film makers.

The movie is bristling with great performances. Morgan Freeman has never been better. His warm and leisurely narration single-handedly counterpoints the prison's gloominess.

Tim Robbins is as believable and effective as usual, playing a character whose determination to beat the system swells up inside of him rather than being displayed through combative actions.

The other prisoner and administrator characters create strong impressions of people who have developed a way of living and would die before they change. James Whitmore stands out as Brooks, the prison librarian, who must learn to cope with the "outside" when he is set free after 50 years in prison. His struggle with social acclamation holds effective tragedy.

Much of the movie was filmed on location at a prison no longer used in New England, but many of the sets were altered and created by production designer Terence Morgan ("Dr. Zhivago"). Shawshank's architecture helps provide much of the film's heavy atmosphere.

Though "The Shawshank Redemption" begins heavily with its realistic depiction of prison life, including sexual aggression, it grows more optimistic as Andy learns how to cope. This optimism blooms into an uplifting finale that supports its theme of hope and earns its sentimentalism. The "Shawshank Redemption" is probably the best King-inspired movie yet.

"The Shawshank Redemption" starts Friday at Century Park 16.

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