I’ve been pondering recently what I consider to be the greatest film of all time, the greatest screenplay, the greatest performace, etc. On my personal shortlist of the three above categories one film kept coming up: The Shawshank Redemption. I am yet to meet anyone who has seen this film who considered it to be a less than a superb film.
The screenplay for this film is itself a work of art. I would even argue that the script by itself upstages Stephen King’s novella, but being a screenwriter, I do acknowledge that I am partial to a brilliantly written screenplay and this one is by far the best I’ve ever read.
Morgan Freeman’s performance is one of my personal top ten performances I’ve seen on the screen. An ingenious collaboration between himself and Frank Darabont, the director. Casting a black actor as Red was an ingenious move by Darabont, even though in the novel and the screenplay, the impression is given that Red is more likely to be white, though it never says so. One of the themes discussed in the novella is that to the guards in those days, a con was worse than a negro, therefore to have a black actor in Red’s shoes is a very powerful device.
I think that a great performance by an actor is confirmed when the audience is made to forget they are watching an actor, and most of all, when ten years later you are still unable to imagine anyone else playing that part.
Video: Red’s Rehabilitation in The Shawshank Redemption (1993).