Frank Darabont’s cherished feature gets a fitting restoration

Upon initial release, The Shawshank Redemption had a somewhat lukewarm reception at the box office. Critical acclaim and awards nominations followed, including seven Academy award nominations and a win for writer/director Frank Darabont for best adapted screenplay. IMDB’s #1 ranked film for over a decade, and as of 2015, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry. Clearly not just your dad’s favorite movie, it continues to resonate at home and overseas, meaning this all-new 4K restoration of the film is sure to be warmly received.

Shawshank tells of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a wealthy banker wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment at Shawshank prison. Inside, eh forms a friendship with longtime inmate Red (Morgan Freeman), who helps Andy endure his ordeal. A man protesting his innocence, and clinging onto hope, as the guards and warden (Bob Gunton) strive to stamp it out of him, he endures, and in doing so lifts the spirits of his fellow inmates.

Frank Darabont (The Green Mile, The Mist) admirably guides what is one of the most revered Stephen King adaptations. A period setting, beginning in the late 1940s, and unfolding over 20 years, this era, and the fuzzy lens of time adds to the slower pace and philosophical pondering. Harkening back to a slower, and more sentimental age doesn’t just make the drudgery and repetition of prison life more palatable, but it also feeds directly into the central theme of enduring hope and patience. Qualities in short order today. The endurance of Dufresne, the grit he shows in spite of a wrongful conviction, as well as some of the atrocious acts he suffers while inside, at the hands of both prisoners and the guards. The film doesn’t gloss over these things but it continues to lean into the warmth that comes from the bonds formed between this group of prisoners on the inside.

Robbins (The Hudsucker Proxy) and Freeman (Seven) are at the core, deeply authentic performances, that complement each other in terms of youth and experience, of hope and acceptance. A rich texture is imparted by a an array of supporting talent, including William Sadler (Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey), Clancy Brown (Highlander), Mark Rolston (Aliens), and James Whitmore (Them!). A memorable and moving affair, where the fostering of friendships during a dark time and place, keeps the light of hope flickering on. Endurance is what keeps these men going, and it is what has sustained The Shawshank Redemption for nearly 30 years.

The Package

We’ve all likely seen The Shawshank Redemption in one form or another over the years, and this all new 4K transfer is a confident step up in quality. The presentation looks a little cooler in parts than previous releases, which is likely indicative of the original film stock and intent. This shift in palette emphasizes a lot of the improvements in detail and texture, the dark and the light contrasting much more favorably. The period details standout very well and overall feel of the film has an added filmic feel, with an authentic grain maintained. Extra features are sadly limited to legacy materials from the previous Blu-ray release only:

  • Commentary by Frank Darabont: A fast and packed commentary covering a huge amount of material
  • Hope Springs Eternal: A Look Back at The Shawshank Redemption: A 30 min retrospective that brings together notable members of the cast and crew to talk about the initial release of the film (poor box office ), and the gradual appreciation for the film that came over time. They also touch on making the film, production design, friendships on set, and more
  • Shawshank: The Redeeming Feature: Features the always great critic Mark Kermode, whose British perspective give this featurette a different feel, as it tries to explain why the film resonates with so many, even overseas
  • The Charlie Rose Show with Frank Darabont, Tim Robbins, and Morgan Freeman: Filmed on the 10th anniversary of the film’s release. Much of the material covered is a little repetitive, when accounting for the other extras here. The rapport between the trio is nice to see tough
  • The SharkTank Redemption: A not very funny parody of the film transplanting the story from a prison to the Hollywood system, with Morgan Freeman’s son Alfonso
  • 5xStills Galleries: 100+ stills from the film
  • Storyboards: Bogs Takes a Fall, New Fish Arrive
  • Also includes a Blu-ray copy, and a digital download code

The Bottom Line

The Shawshank Redemption is a very familiar film, having populated “Best of” lists for over a decade. Despite this familiarity, it remains a very well crafted, and poignant piece of storytelling. The update here is solely in terms of visuals , but that is indeed a step up after we’ve been used to with the ageing Blu-ray out there, and as a regular fixture on cable. 4K delivers an altogether more grand presentation that befits Frank Darabont’s most cherished film.

The Shawshank Redemption is available on 4K UltraHD from Sept 14th

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