Your Favorite Movie of All Time – 30 Day Movie Challenge
Whether intentional or not, The Shawshank Redemption is a film about hope, and the redemption that can occur even in the most dark and degrading corners of our world. This engrossing film stands as one of the most entertaining, thought-provoking dramas of this century. It takes us to a disturbing setting, uses raw language, doesn’t present us with ideal role models, and there are numerous brutal, occasionally fatal, beatings. But we are not cast into this dark place to incite our own lust or rage. The film clearly shows us that these things are harmful or wrong. Because to tell a story of redemption; you have to sink to the depths before you can rise to the pinnacle. When the darkness is hellish, the light shines ever more brightly. Simply put, this film couldn’t have been made without these elements.
Our hero, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), is wrongly accused of killing his wife and receives two life sentences. Steadily and quietly in prison, he wards off the bitterness against that injustice and the further hardships he suffers by doing good for others, even those that despise him. When the film’s narrator Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman) first sees Andy arrive, he wagers that the tall-but-quiet ex-banker is a guy who won’t last long. Red loses the bet, but as he gets to know Andy, he begins to respect him and the two become friends and help each other survive the long and dark days of incarceration.
The prison warden (Bob Gunton) is a hypocritical “Christian” who uses the Lord, the Bible, and the people for his own scheming, murdering purposes. We are meant early on to see through this painted on veneer as shown by his “welcoming” the prisoners to Shawshank, “I believe in two things: discipline and the Bible. Here you’ll receive both. Put your trust in the Lord; your ass belongs to me.” This is not the cheap-shot characterization that many believers have come to expect from Hollywood. If you are turned off by the warden, it is because you are meant to be. Just remember who it was that had our sinless savior crucified; it was the conservative religious coalition of the day carrying out a sinister plot in order to maintain its own political power.
In fact, there are many similarities between the heroes of The Shawshank Redemption and the Gospel. The central characters are both wrongly accused. One receives two life sentences and the other is crucified. Neither are respected by their contemporaries, Andy is s a banker and Jesus is a Nazarene? While Andy is certainly flawed, the good work he does while in prison actually serves a ruthless political end that ends up holding him captive. Jesus was ridiculed and executed by the same people He came to free.
The characters are believable, the actors sink into their respective roles perfectly, and light up a brilliantly executed script. But it is the cinematography (crafted by the Coen Brothers’ go to guy, Roger Deakins) that provides the all important look of the film. Thick walls, imposing fences, and confined spaces remind us of the oppression. The guards relentless marching and the heavy bars slamming open and slamming shut reinforce it. Dull, chipped walls in every room surround the dulled, chipped lives of utterly hopeless men. But director Frank Darabont isn’t content to linger in the darkness. Hope is scattered throughout, from an Italian opera broadcast over loudspeakers to a senate appropriation for library books. From a cold beer after a days work to the thought of a “place of no memory.” From High school equivalency exams to a harmonica. From Alexander Dumas to Rita Hayworth.
Hope triumphs gloriously in the end. It only takes 19 years. But when Andy escapes the hard way, he makes it possible for his friend to go an easier way. Andy escapes the bonds of prison like Jesus escaped the bonds of death. Andy disappeared with an invitation for Red to join him much like Jesus told us that he was going to prepare a place for us. There are so many pictures of Christian hope in this movie that they couldn’t help but put the central message of the gospel in the title.
What is your favorite movie of all time? What do you think of Shawshank? Am I going overboard with the Christian allegory? Leave me a comment below. Also, with the 30 Day Challenge coming to an end, I am here at work for an overnight twelve hour shift. That gave me plenty of time to stamp out my last challenge and hopefully to fill in some of the gaps that were left when life or technology got in the way. I’ll let you know on Twitter or Facebook if I update any of my older posts. Follow me there to keep up with me as I continue my journey through the ever-changing IMDB Top 250.