The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Genre: Crime, Drama
Director: Frank Darabont
Cast: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman and Bob Gunton
Runtime: 142 min

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In 1947, banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is convicted of murdering his wife and her lover, based on circumstantial evidence, and is sentenced to two consecutive life sentences at Shawshank State Penitentiary. Andy quickly befriends contraband smuggler Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman), an inmate serving a life sentence. Red procures a rock hammer for Andy, allowing him to create small stone chess pieces. He obtains a large poster of Rita Hayworth for Andy, followed in later years by images of Marilyn Monroe and Raquel Welch. Andy works in the prison laundry, but is regularly assaulted by "the Sisters" and their leader Bogs (Mark Rolston).

In 1949, Andy overhears the brutal chief guard Byron Hadley (Clancy Brown) complaining about taxes on a forthcoming inheritance, and informs him about a financial loophole. After another vicious assault by the Sisters nearly kills Andy, Bogs is beaten and crippled by Hadley. Bogs is sent to another prison and Andy is not attacked again. Later, under the pretense of a cell inspection, Warden Samuel Norton (Bob Gunton) meets with Andy and reassigns him to the prison library, to assist elderly inmate Brooks Hatlen (James Whitmore); a pretext for Andy to manage financial duties for the prison. His advice and expertise are soon sought by other guards at Shawshank and from nearby prisons. Andy begins writing weekly letters to the state government for funds to improve the decrepit library.

In 1954, Brooks is freed on parole, but unable to adjust to the outside world after 50 years in prison, he hangs himself. Andy receives a library donation that includes a recording of The Marriage of Figaro. He plays an excerpt over the public address system, resulting in him receiving solitary confinement. After his release, Andy explains that he holds onto hope as something that the prison cannot take from him, but Red dismisses the idea. In 1963, Norton begins exploiting prison labor for public works, undercutting the cost of skilled labor by skimming the profits and receiving kickbacks. He has Andy launder the money using the alias "Randall Stevens".

In 1965, Tommy Williams (Gil Bellows) is incarcerated for robbery. He joins Andy and Red's circle of friends, and Andy assists him in getting his GED. In 1966, after hearing the details of Andy's case, Tommy reveals that an inmate at another prison claimed responsibility for an identical murder, suggesting Andy's innocence. Andy approaches Norton with this information, but the warden refuses to listen. Norton places Andy in solitary confinement and has Tommy murdered by Hadley under the guise of an escape attempt. Andy refuses to continue with the scam, but Norton threatens to destroy the library and take away his protection and preferential treatment. After Andy is released from solitary he tells Red of his dream of living in Zihuatanejo, a Mexican Pacific coastal town. While Red shrugs it off as unrealistic, Andy instructs him, should he ever be freed, to visit a specific hayfield near Buxton to retrieve a package.

The next day at roll call, Andy's cell is empty. Enraged, Norton throws one of Andy's rocks at the poster of Raquel Welch which tears through, revealing a tunnel that Andy had dug with his rock hammer over the previous two decades. The previous night, Andy escaped through the tunnel and the prison's sewage pipe with Norton's ledger, containing details of the money laundering. While guards search for him the following morning, Andy, posing as Randall Stevens, visits several banks to withdraw the laundered money. Finally, he sends the ledger and evidence of the corruption and murders at Shawshank to a local newspaper. The police arrive at Shawshank and take Hadley into custody, but Norton commits suicide to avoid arrest.

After serving 40 years Red receives parole. He struggles to adapt to life outside prison and fears he never will. Remembering his promise to Andy, he visits Buxton and finds a cache containing money and a letter, asking him to come to Zihuatanejo. Red violates his parole and travels to Fort Hancock, Texas to cross the border to Mexico, admitting he finally feels hope. On a beach in Zihuatanejo, he finds Andy, and the two friends are happily reunited.

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