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The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 American prison drama film, written and directed by Frank Darabont, and based on Stephen King's short story, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. The film stars Tim Robbins as Andrew "Andy" Dufresne and Morgan Freeman as Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding. The film was dedicated in memory of Darabont's former agent, Allen Greene, who died during filming from AIDS.


In 1947, Andy Dufresne is a docile banker in Portland, Maine. One night, he suspects that his wife is cheating on him with a golf pro, and after he left intoxicated, an intruder broke in and killed the both of them. Later, Andy is wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife and her lover due to possessing a revolver, despite his claims of innocence, his cold and measured demeanor led many to doubt his word and is sentenced to two consecutive life sentences at the Shawshank State Prison. The inmates there spend more time indoors as the outside world has changed significantly in the time span of their prison sentence and no prisoner has ever successfully escape alive.

During the first night, the chief guard, Byron Hadley, savagely beats a newly arrived inmate because of his crying and hysterics. The inmate later dies in the infirmary because the prison doctor had left for the night. Meanwhile, Andy remained steadfast and composed. Assigned to work in the prison laundry, Andy is frequently sexually assaulted by "the Sisters" and their leader, Bogs. About a month later, Andy is befriended by Ellis "Red" Redding, an inmate and prison contraband smuggler serving a life imprisonment. Red procures a rock hammer for Andy, an instrument he claims is necessary for his hobby of rock collecting and sculpting. Red believes Andy intends to use the hammer to engineer his escape in the future but when the tool arrived and he saw how small it was, Red put aside the thought that Andy could ever use it to dig his way out of prison. Although other prisoners consider Andy "a really cold fish", Red sees something in Andy.

In 1949, Red pulls some strings, and gets Andy and a few of their mutual friends a break by getting them all on a work detail tarring the roof of one of the prison's buildings. During the job, Andy overhears Hadley complaining about having to pay taxes for an upcoming inheritance. Using his expertise as a banker, Andy lets Hadley know how he could shelter his money from the IRS, turning it into a one-time gift for his wife. He said he'd assist in exchange for some cold beers for his fellow inmates while on the tarring job. Though he at first threatens to throw Andy off the roof, Hadley agrees, providing the men with cold beer before the job is finished. Red remarks that Andy may have engineered the privilege to build favor with the prison guards as much as with his fellow inmates, but Red also thinks Andy did it simply to "feel free."

While watching a movie, Andy demands Red a large poster of Rita Hayworth. Soon after Andy once more encountered the Sisters and is brutally beaten, putting him in the infirmary for a month. Bogs spends a week in solitary. When he comes out, he finds Hadley and his men waiting in his cell. They beat him so badly he's left crippled, transferred to a prison hospital upstate, and the Sisters never bothered Andy again. When Andy is released, he finds a bunch of rocks and a poster of Rita Hayworth in his cell: presents from Red and his buddies.

Warden Samuel Norton is impressed about how Andy's finance tactics had helped Hadley and uses a surprise cell inspection to size Andy up. Norton meets with Andy, lets him keep a Bible as an exception, and reassigns him to the prison library to assist elderly inmate Brooks Hatlen, a front to allow Andy to manage financial matters for other prison staff, guards from other prisons, and the warden himself. There Andy sees an opportunity to expand the prison library, starting with asking the Maine legislature for funds. He writes letters and sends them every week. His financial support practice became so appreciated that even guards from other prisons, when they came for inter-prison baseball matches, sought Andy's financial advice. Andy even ends up doing Norton's taxes the next season.

Not long afterward, Brooks is paroled after serving 50 years, threatens to kill another prisoner, Heywood, in order to avoid being paroled because Brooks is uncomfortable of leaving Shawshank and sees the library his home. Andy is able to talk him down and Brooks is paroled. He goes to a halfway house but finds it impossible to adjust to life outside the prison. There was like only one car on the street since he last saw the outside now its crowded with people and vehicles. He eventually commits suicide. When his friends suggest that he was crazy for doing so, Red tells them that Brooks had obviously became "institutionalized", essentially conditioned to be a prisoner for the rest of his life and unable to adapt to the outside world.

After six years of writing letters, Andy receives a library donation, along with a collection of old books and records. Though the legislature thinks this will be enough to get Andy to halt his letter-writing campaign, however, he is undaunted and doubles his efforts. When the donations of old books and records arrive at the warden's office, Andy finds a copy of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" among the records. He locks the guard assigned to the warden's office in the bathroom and plays the record on a excerpt over the prison's PA system. The entire prison seems captivated by the music - Red remarks that the voices of the women in the intro made everyone feel free, if only for a brief time. Outside the office, Norton appears, furious at the act of defiance and orders Andy to turn off the record player. Andy reaches for the needle arm at first, then turns the volume on the phonograph up. The warden orders Hadley to break into the office and Andy is sent immediately to solitary confinement for two weeks. He later tells his friends that it was the "easiest time" stretch ever did in the hole because he thought of Mozart's Figaro. When the other prisoners tell him how unlikely that could be, he tells them that hope can sustain them, a concept that Red dismisses.

With the enlarged library and more materials, Andy begins to teach those inmates who want to receive their high school diplomas. After Andy is able to secure a steady stream of funding from various sources, the library is further renovated and memory for Brooks. In 1963, the warden profits on Andy's knowledge of bookkeeping and launched a new service program and devises a scheme whereby he put prison inmates to work in public projects which he won by outbidding other contractors (cheap labor from the prisoners). Occasionally, he let others get some contracts if they bribe him. Norton instructs Andy to launder the money by setting up many accounts in different banks, along with several investments, using a fake identity: "Randall Stephens", so that if the police were to find out about the black money, they'll be looking for a man whose is non-existent. He shared the details only with Red, noting he had to "go to prison to learn how to be a criminal."

A new prisoner Tommy Williams is transferred to Shawshank incarcerated for burglary in 1965. Tommy is desperate to have a good life with his wife and kid once he is paroled. Andy and Red befriend him, and Andy suggests that Tommy take up another line of work besides theft. The suggestion really gets to Tommy, and he works on achieving his high school equivalency diploma. Though Tommy is a good student, he is still frustrated when he takes the General Educational Development (GED) exam itself, crumpling it up and tossing it in the trash. Andy retrieves it and sends it in anyway. Surprised, Tommy passed his GED exam.

In 1966, Red tells Tommy about Andy's case. Tommy is visibly stunned at hearing Andy's story that sounded familiar to him and reveals he had a cellmate at another prison (Elmo Blatch) who boasted about killing a man who was a pro golfer at the country club he worked at, along with his lover. The woman's husband, a banker, convicted of the murders was sent to prison for it. With this new information, Andy, full of hope, meets with the warden's, expecting he could help him get another trial with Tommy as a witness. The reaction from Norton is completely contrary to what Andy hoped for. Andy says emphatically that he would never reveal the money-laundering schemes he had set up for Norton over the years - the warden becomes furious and orders him to solitary for a month. The warden later meets with Tommy alone and asks him if he'll testify on Andy's behalf. Tommy enthusiastically agrees and the warden has him shot dead by Hadley.

When the warden visits Andy in solitary, he claims that Tommy was killed under the guise of an escape attempt (except Andy can tell Norton is lying). Andy attempts to discontinue the money-laundering. The warden counters, saying the library will be destroyed and all its materials burned. Andy will also lose his private cell and be sent to the block with the most hardened criminals. The warden gives Andy another month in solitary. He realized the warden is never going to let him leave Shawshank.

Afterwards, Andy returns to the usual daily life at Shawshank, a seemingly broken man. One day, he talks to Red, about how although he didn't kill his wife, his personality drove her away, which led to her infidelity and death. He says if he's ever freed or escapes, he'd like to go to Zihuatanejo, a beach town on the Pacific coast of Mexico. He also tells Red how he got engaged. He and his future wife went up to a farm in Buxton, Maine, to a large oak tree at the end of a stone wall. The two made love under the tree, after which he proposed to her. He tells Red that, if he should ever be paroled, he should look for that field, and that oak tree. There, under a large black volcanic rock that would look out of place, Andy has buried a box that he wants Red to have. Andy refuses to tell what might be in that box. Later, Andy asks for a length of rope, leading Red and his buddies to suspect he will commit suicide. At the end of the day, Norton asks Andy to shine his shoes for him and put his suit in for dry-cleaning before retiring for the stormy night.

At the next day's roll call, Andy is not accounted for and his cell is empty. At the same time, Norton becomes alarmed when he finds Andy's shoes in his shoebox instead of his own. He rushes to Andy's cell and demands an explanation. Hadley brings in Red, but Red insists he knows nothing of Andy's plans. Becoming increasing hostile and paranoid, Norton starts throwing Andy's sculpted rocks around the cell. When he throws one at Andy's poster of Raquel Welch (where it used to hold Marilyn Monroe and Rita Hayworth before), the rock punches through and into the wall. Norton tears the poster away from the wall and finds a tunnel just wide enough for a man to crawl through! Andy dug through the wall with his rock hammer over the past 19 years, covering it behind the posters, and after hearing Tommy's assassination Andy decided he had stayed in Shawshank long enough and waited for a thunderstorm that will mask his blows. During the previous night's thunderstorm, Andy wore Norton's shoes to his cell, catching a lucky break when no one notices. He packs some papers, a bar of soap, Norton's clothes and a ledger into a plastic bag, tied it to himself with the rope he'd asked for, and escapes through his hole. The tunnel he'd excavated led him to a space between two walls of the prison where he found a sewer main line. Using a rock, he hits it in the precise time with the lightning strikes and eventually burst it. Crawling through 500 yards in the pipe and through the raw sewage contained in it, Andy emerged in a brook outside the walls and basks his freedom. A search team later found his uniform and his rock hammer which had been worn nearly to nothing.

That morning, Andy walks into the Maine National Bank in Portland, where he had stash Norton's money. Using the assumed identity Randall Stephens, and with all the necessary documentation, he walked out with a cashier's check. Before he leaves, he asks the staff to drop a package in the mail. He continues his visitations to nearly a dozen other local banks, ending up with $370,000. The package contained Norton's ledger, and evidence of the corruption at Shawshank, which were delivered straight to the Portland Daily Bugle newspaper. Not long after, the state police storms Shawshank. Hadley is arrested for murder. Norton opens his concealed bank safe, which he hadn't touched since Andy escaped, and instead he finds the Bible he had allowed Andy to keep. Norton opens it to the book of Exodus and finds that the pages have been cut out in the shape of Andy's rock hammer to which he had hidden it, revealing Andy was not just a meek banker but a man with a high IQ and planned everything. Dumbfounded, Norton walks back to his desk as the attorney and police pound on his door, takes out a small revolver and shoots himself under the chin.

Shortly after, Red receives a postcard from Fort Hancock, Texas, with nothing written on it. Red takes it as a sign that Andy made it into Mexico to freedom. Red and his buddies would spend their time talking about Andy's exploits (with a lot of embellishments), but Red just missed his friend. A year later at Red's next parole, he talked to the board about "rehabilitated" was a made-up word, and how he regretted his actions of the past. His parole is granted this time after serving 40 years. He goes to work at a grocery store, and stays at the same halfway house room Brooks had stayed in. He frequently walks by a pawn shop, which had several guns and compasses in the window. At times he would contemplate trying to get back into prison, but he remembered the promise he had made to Andy. He followed Andy's instructions, hitchhiking to Buxton and arriving at the stone wall Andy described. Just like Andy said, there was a large black stone. Under it was a small box containing a large sum of cash and a letter to find him. He said he needed a good man "who could get things" for a "project" of his.

Red violates his parole and leaves the halfway house, unconcerned since no one would really do an extensive manhunt for "an old crook like [him]." He takes an Express bus to Fort Hancock, where he crosses the border and into Mexico, admitting he finally feels hope. The two friends are reunited on the beach of Zihuatanejo on the Pacific coast.[1]


Jeffrey DeMunn appears during the film's opening credits in a cameo role as the 1946 District attorney, whose case causes Dufresne to be convicted. DeMunn, who is a Darabont alumnus, has also appeared in the director's later adaptations of The Green Mile and The Mist.