Log Line

A stoic young bank executive who is wrongly convicted for killing his wife struggles to improve his lot and that of others in the terrible prison to which he has been sentenced.

Overview

Medium: Film

Writer(s): Frank Darabont

Director(s): Frank Darabont

Production Co.(s): Castle Rock Entertainment

Story by: Stephen King

Adapted from: Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (Novella) by Stephen King (© 1982)

In The Shawshank Redemption, the main character, Andy Dufresne, is a stoic young banker who is convicted of killing his wife and her golf-pro lover and sentenced to serve two life terms in an infamous New England prison called Shawshank. In a quick series of flashbacks and courtroom testimony at the start of the story, we-the-audience are led to believe that Andy is innocent and that his conviction is an act of injustice founded entirely on circumstantial evidence.

The prison proves to be a cruel and unforgiving environment the brutality of which is fostered and administered by the prisoners and guards alike—and Andy’s natural stoicism is tested from the start. On his first night as an inmate, a fellow newbie prisoner is taunted into crying, and when he refuses an order by Captain Hadley, the vicious leader of the guards, to cease doing so, he is beaten so severely that he dies the next day in the infirmary. On the inmate side, such brutality is primarily carried out (in Andy's case) by the Sisters, a small group of prisoners who set their sights on beating and raping Andy whenever they can catch him alone.

In the midst of this hellish environment, Andy meets and becomes friends with Red, a middle-aged inmate who admits to being guilty of the murder for which he was accused as a teenager. Red is the local source for contraband items, and from him Andy is able to procure a rock hammer, ostensibly to help him pursue his interests as a rock hound.

One day, while assigned to a roof-tarring detail, Andy overhears Captain Hadley telling the other guards about an inheritance he is about to receive and lamenting the loss he will take at the hands of the Internal Revenue Service. When Andy offers advice on how to avoid the loss completely, he reveals a bit of his banking knowledge and gives birth to a reputation that spreads quickly through the ranks of the guards as a source of free tax advice. Soon, even guards from other prisons are visiting Shawshank to have Andy do their taxes—and Andy’s financial talents come to the notice of Warden Norton, the severe and unforgiving personage in charge of the prison.

Years later, when Norton implements a self-serving plan for using prison labor for public works projects under the guise of liberalism and rehabilitation, he enlists Andy to keep the books in a manner that allows him to skim money. Andy complies, creating a fictitious person into whose bank accounts the money is deposited, so that he and Norton cannot be traced to the skimming. And when a new prisoner (Tommy) appears with evidence that could allow Andy to demand a retrial, Norton has the prisoner killed so that Andy will remain imprisoned and under his thumb. He also has Andy thrown into “the hole” for two months to reaffirm his complete control over Andy’s life and limb.

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