"THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION" is one of the rare kind of movies that film lovers should likely agree needs to be part of their treasured film collection, and continue to "upgrade" it, as formats upgrade: VHS to Laserdisc to DVD to Blu-ray, and, in the future, whatever the next improved format ends up being!
While the film failed at the box-office, it slowly but surely won a huge base of fans, largely due to repeated cable tv showings, wherein even casual viewers, felt compelled by its power, to drop whatever they were doing, sit down and just watch. It's that kind of a masterpiece. Perhaps one of the greatest screenwriters of all time, "WILLIAM GOLDMAN" even commented it probably deserved the OSCAR when nominated, "over" Pulp Fiction, due to the fact that it was so hard to find "anything" about the final film that could've been improved upon. He was right! Men, women, young, old alike have been drawn into this film, and even this reviewer, hating "on-air" programming that's been "modified" for either aspect ratio, language, or running time, repeatedly dropped everything whenever noticing "THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION" was on one of its numerous cable airings, particularly in the late '90s.
Writer/Director Frank Darabont adapted a novella, "RITA HAYWORTH AND THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION" from a Stephen King compilation, and while there have been changes one could argue are major, one can't see the final film and imagine it being any other way. A major change: The character of "Red," portrayed by Morgan Freeman, was originally given that name due to his "Irish" white heritage, and red hair. But, this change is easily explained away with a line of dialogue from Freeman, that actually seems to make sense and enhance his character. Freeman, the great actor that he is, will probably find it hard to inhabit another onscreen role with the unforgettable imprint his performance leaves on the viewer here. His performance and the writing is just that great! The same can be said for Tim Robbins and the other great supporting cast members.
Robbins plays "Andy," a seemingly bookish man, sent away to "SHAWSHANK Penitentiary" for the murder of his wife, an adulterer. Darabont's incredible hand, leaves the actual answer to his guilt unknown 'til late in the film, and it doesn't sway the viewer from feeling a type of kindred spirit with the man they're watching on screen. It's a remarkable feat. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, the story covers Andy's story, from the beginning of his incarceration until,...well, viewers who may not have seen the film, need to see for themselves. But, the story is about more than just Andy, it's about relationships, right and wrong, the human condition, and ultimately, "redemption." For those who may not have seen this film, "THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION" is a film that must be seen!
WARNER BROS. has released this film on dvd twice before, the last time, with a major upgrade, including the wonderful score to the film on an accompanying cd. WB has now provided a blu-ray presentation with the correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio presented on a BD-50 dual layer disc, with VC-1 encoding. Everything about the image appears pleasing. Colors are natural, as are fleshtones, even in scenes wherein the color scheme would otherwise be prone to veer them to extremes. In scene-to-scene comparisons with the dvd, upgraded to 1080p via the blu-ray player upconversion, the actual new blu-ray image still offers notably better detail. However, it's hard not to be disappointed that the image doesn't have the depth one expects from 1080p blu-ray. It's quite good, yes! But, one wants the magnificent compositions to really jump-off-the-screen, and it doesn't. Blacks are deep enough, without being inky, to provide impressive detail in darker scenes. It's not the kind of major improvement over dvd we'd anticipated, but it's still better than the dvd and even slightly better than the recent HD satellite presentation we'd viewed earlier this year.
WARNER BROS. has provided a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix. The mix is intentionally a "quiet" one, for the most part. There are some discrete effects popping up, effectively, at times, but surrounds are seldom utilized and even separation effects are scarce. While this reviewer appreciates the impact of intelligent and creative sound editing, to enhance a film's drama, "THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION" actually proves a great film, with or without an aggressive mix, is still a "great" film. Does the lossless mix make for an improvement over the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix featured on the previous dvd, and also available on the blu-ray? Yes, although not in a major way. Freeman's all-important narration, has a slightly improved fidelity in the lossless version. The unforgettable music also has slightly better dynamic range in TrueHD over standard Dolby Digital 5.1, although it's terrific on both!
WARNER BROS. has provided a long awaited "commentary" with Darabont, and it's no surprise that it's one of the best commentaries offered on any dvd or blu-ray. Darabont provides terrific insight into the film's development, production, themes, and more, without ever becoming dull. He's even quite humorous at times, and fans of the film(hard to imagine "anyone" seeing the film not being a fan)will appreciate the candid introspection provided throughout! There are two entertaining featurettes about the film, with cast and crew, and a great episode of the "CHARLIE ROSE SHOW" with Robbins, Darabont and Freeman. Last, a funny parody of the film. Additionally, there are stills and the theatrical trailer in HD. All of this is contained within a pleasant "book" encasing, akin to what WB did with their release of "ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST" earlier in the year. GRAB THIS ONE!!!!