In our regular polarising-opinion series, one Total Film writer argues that The Shawshank Redemption isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Read on, and let us know if you agree with the argument put forward by having your say in the comments section below.
Is it just me... Or is The Shawshank Redemption good but not great? asks Matt Looker
Let me get one thing straight and out the way: I am not saying that The Shawshank Redemption is a terrible movie by any long prison stretch of the imagination. It is obviously a hugely inspiring story, with iconic moments, wonderful cinematography, great performances and a brilliant score. It’s not the Norbit of penitentiary movies. I understand this.
But it has also long been regarded as one of the best films – if not the best film – ever made and it has spent the last seven years to date owning the number one spot on IMDb’s Top 250 list. That’s right, according to the biggest movie resource in history, The Shawshank Redemption is the finest specimen of cinematic perfection that has ever been created. When the prisoners of Shawshank stop dead in their tracks at the sound of music playing in the open courtyard, this is how I imagine the IMDb voters reacting to the silky bass tones of Morgan Freeman’s opening narration.
But isn’t Shawshank’s popularity mostly down to its own triumphant release story? Thanks to completely tanking at the box office and then becoming a smash hit on ￼￼￼video and TV, Shawshank is something
of an underdog film, one that won none of its seven Oscar nominations and was deemed a bomb until audiences discovered it for themselves. The release of The Shawshank Redemption is itself an uplifting tale of survival. It’s the film that crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.
Obviously that wouldn’t have happened if the film didn’t have such universal appeal. Which of course it does: triumph over adversity, freedom getting one over on oppression... and it all has just enough edge to stand it apart from hundreds of tonally similar Hallmark movies.
But isn’t it also a bit... maudlin? A bit overly sentimental? And isn’t Tim Robbins’ Andy Dufresne a bit too dull to be an upstanding icon of the free world? For all the film’s strengths, Robbins never really inspires in his performance, does he?
And then there’s Shawshank’s big pay- off moment, one of the cinema’s greatest punch-in-the-air turnaround endings: the moment when it is revealed that incredible patience and determination has paid off and ensured Andy’s escape. But isn’t even that moment ruined when you realise there’s no possible way that he could have re-stuck his poster to the wall once inside the tunnel? Surely The Greatest Film Of All Time shouldn’t allow for such blatant plot niggles.
So, I know what you’re thinking: “If not The Shawshank Redemption, what is the best film ever made?” That’s not for me to say, but shouldn’t the top slot go to a film that really changed the landscape of cinema? Frank Darabont’s drama doesn’t so much change the game as just play it really, really well. So can it really be called the best film ever? It’s not even the best Stephen King adaptation... or is it just me?
Agree or disagree with Matt's argument? Hit the comments section below to add your view!