Based on the Stephen King novella “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.”
Genre: Drama and Mystery
Opening Image: The movie opens with an ominous setting. It shows the main character, Andy Dufresne, visibly drunk in his car. As Andy continues to drink, he stares down a long drive at a house in the distance. The camera then Andy pulling out a gun and bullets.
Set-up: When Andy pulls out the gun, the scene cuts inside a courthouse. Andy is on the stand and claiming innocence for the murders committed against his wife and her mister. The evidence appears substantial, as they were murdered the night Andy stared at his wife’s house in the distance. The judge refers to Andy as “ice cold” as he sentences Andy to back-to-back life sentences. The scene ends with the audience trying to gauge if Andy is actually innocent or guilty.
Theme Stated: The audience gets a feel for the theme during the court house scene. The theme is very simply crime and punishment. It is a little cliché but Andy’s punishment for his alleged murders is that he is sentenced to prison. On the other hand, Andy’s wife is punished through her death, by her “crime” of infidelity. The idea of crime and punishment is quickly building on itself just two scenes into the movie.
Catalyst: Andy riding the bus into prison and spending his first night locked behind bars is definitely the catalyst. The outside banking world that Andy knew is no longer and he must adjust to the new life in prison. He quickly feels all the pressures and changes in prison through just his first night.
Debate: The first couple of years in Shawshank Prison are the hardest years for him. This period is definitely the time where Andy has the capabilities of surviving this new world. During the first couple of years Andy is constantly beat and tormented by a few men known as the “Sisters.” One of the other main characters, Red, narrates Andy’s gruesome first two years and claims he was not sure if Andy could make it out alive.
Breaking into two: There is a pivotal moment of transition during this film. Andy eventually moves out of the tormented phase and into the beginnings of friendship. The beginnings of friendship get Andy a job fixing the roof of one of the prison buildings. During the construction, a guard is complaining about money he has received in a will because the government will take a large sum of it. However, Andy gives him a way to avoid the government interference and the guard shows his gratitude by giving cold beer to the prison workers on the last day of the job. This transitions Andy from a secluded, beaten down, nobody to a renowned financial wizard to the guards of Shawshank, guards of other prisons, and even the warden himself.
B Story: The B Story is introduced when the theme comes back into play. The crime aspect never really dies as Red constantly funnels goods through the prison for his fellow inmates. However, the B Story really takes hold when the audience realizes that Andy is cooking the books for the warden. It introduces a new snapshot of the crime theme, and leaves the audience wondering what the punishment aspect will turn out to be.
The Promise of the Premise: Andy starts writing the municipalities for funding to open up a prison library. He accomplishes his goal and gives the audience a break from the thickening drama and adds a slight moment of rejoice. The library shows how Andy not only made it out of his first horrid years, but then flourished as a convicted felon behind the Shawshank Penitentiary walls.
Midpoint: The midpoint is when everything seems to be going great or not so great. In The Shawshank Redemption, Andy is feelings pretty good. The true midpoint is the moment the audience realizes the new library is everything that Andy dreamed it would be. Andy is even able to help several inmates get degrees or an education through his library.
Bad Guys Close In: Andy begins to accept his situation at Shawshank Prison, and everything is running pretty smoothly until a new inmate named Tommy gets locked up. Tommy tells a story to Red and Andy about his old cellmate, who confesses to the murders that are allegedly committed by Andy. Andy has played up his innocence throughout the film, but Tommy gives him a legitimate chance to make it out. Andy takes the information to the warden, who does not respond well. The warden has Tommy shot, and Andy sentenced to solitary confinement for a couple of months. The warden threatens Andy’s livelihood and everything he has built in the prison if he even thinks about trying to pursue his false conviction or discontinuing the prison money laundering.
All is Lost: Andy finally gets out of solitary confinement and continues to serve as the warden’s lacky. Andy appears to no longer get any sort of reward or sense of satisfaction for his actions.
Dark Night of the Soul: Andy continues to reap his sorrows of the life he is living and mourns the death of Tommy. Red describes him as starting to “talk funny” and that “things just don’t feel right.” Andy continues to do the warden’s dirty deeds, and he starts to feel a bigger sense of fear of the warden than he ever has.
Break Into Three: This part of the story is very clear through a long scene of simple conversation between Andy and Red. Andy is talking about his hopes and dreams, about where he wants to go and what he wants to do on the other side. Red pushes back on Andy’s big hopes and Andy responds with the most infamous quote of the film; “Get busy living or get busy dying.” The audience can feel a shift in the film, but they cannot tell if it is for the better or the worse just yet.
Finale: The Finale is epic as it opens on a morning cell count that Andy is not present at. The audience waits in suspense as the guard rushes his cell, until everyone realizes that Andy escaped. Andy’s lack of a crime has been forgiven, and his punishment is his return to freedom. The warden’s story is also brought to a close as he kills himself before he is arrested for the crimes he has committed. The theme of crime and punishment meets a resolution.
Final Image: The ominous opening is no longer, as the film ends shinning bright. Red and Andy meet post-prison on a beach and everyone is both happy and free.