I have not seen THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION in many, many years. Regarded as one of the finest contemporary movies ever made by critics and audiences (going so far as to infamously being regarded as the highest rated movie on the Internet Movie Database), some may not know that this did NOT do very well on its original theatrical release in the fall of 1994. I remember seeing SHAWSHANK back when studios used to do a double-bill sneak preview, where they would show this ahead of its release and you could stay and see another movie after. For me, it was Jean-Claude Van Damme in TIMECOP of all movies. Ah, the 90s.
Watching it again, I am simply awe-struck at its perfection. Based on a very short Stephen King novel RITA HAYWORTH & THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, Andy Dufrane (Tim Robbins) is sent to jail for two life sentences after allegedly killing his wife and man who she was having an affair with. After keeping to himself for a while he meets Red (Morgan Freeman) and creates a friendship with him and other inmates, and a slow but powerful story builds of a new life inside prison. Is there possibility for escape or release one day?
One of the finest aspects of SHAWSHANK is the subtle but effective passing of time. We see Andy evolve, learn and adapt in prison through the years and we witness a world building around him based on his quiet but brilliant intelligence as he uses his resources to help out the tax returns for the prison guards, build a library, and also expose the evil warden (a terrific Bob Gunton) who is doing a little bit of illegal action on his own.
Frank Darabont, who went on to adapt more of King’s work along with an extensive filmography has always stuck to his natural roots as a filmmaker, and SHAWSHANK is his finest work here. It’s a challenge to make what would be a dark and sad story about prison life into an allegory of hope and redemption.
About the 4k Release:
This is one of the most gorgeous 4k HDR transfers I have seen to date. Warner really did some good restoration work on this one as I noticed a much more film-like look, more noticeable film grain and a slightly darker overall look than previous transfers. This is one that I rented on laserdisc (back when Columbia Pictures owned it!) and owned both a DVD and a Blu Ray, and this 4k transfer blows them all out of the water. The level of cinematic detail here showcases the power of 35mm photography, both from the dark halls of the prison cells to the overhead, helicopter shots of the prison compound. It’s as close to the 35mm print as I can find, and all that is missing is the changeover cues from the print!
The aspect ratio is also in its proper 1.85 framing, whereas previous releases have been 16×9. It’s very noticeable on my larger display and I really hope all future 4k transfers stick to showcasing the proper 1.85 framing instead of cropping it to “fill” an HD monitor.
The sound mix here is strong in DTS 5.1 Master Audio with a good surround presence with Thomas Newman’s memorable music and some of the more intense weather sequences (in particular a pivotal story sequence). Though not a mind-blowing sound mix to show off a sound system, it perfectly fits the material.
As per usual, most of the features are also on the included Blu Ray and are all ported over from the previous Blu Ray release. You can find Frank Darabont’s commentary track on both discs, but run the Blu Ray to see two documentaries on the making and reflection of SHAWSHANK, storyboards and photo galleries. The key feature here is the commentary track and definitely worth a listen. There’s a Digital Copy here that redeems to Google Play in Canada and DOES upgrade to 4k, despite the package saying otherwise.
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION is an easy recommend on 4k disc with its terrific restoration along with features. This is one that I tend to revisit from time to time as an example of great, classy filmmaking that completely engages your senses. Highly recommended.
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION is now available on 4k Blu Ray. Thanks to Warner PR for sending along a copy for review.