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The Shawshank Redemption

The script construction is related to William Peter Blatty's idea of composition, and, as filmed, is summarily comprehensive (Birdman of Alcatraz, Escape From Alcatraz, The Glass House, Scarecrow, etc.). A Robert Frost feint in the dialogue is answered by an allusion in the action ("A Drumlin Woodchuck"). The main interest is what you might call a "mixed" style, like Ed Harris's Pollock, where certain popular conventions are incorporated to set off and relieve the main theme.

In Pollock, the "dark side" biography co-exists with the artist's life, so that its nugatory aspects are brought to light and nullified. In The Shawshank Redemption, it's certain cinematic tricks that have been overdone of late: a penchant for surprise, red herrings, all the things that overstate the case and wreck the film. Here, they wash away like the dreck Dufresne crawls through to freedom.

Darabont wisely finds in his actors much saved footage. Both James Whitmore and Morgan Freeman, for example, create the scenes of their release without much else needed.

Its generosity of spirit even extends a hand to Forrest Gump's admirers, in the end.





The Green Mile

Sometime back in the Eighties of the last century, somebody had the idea of putting television executives on TV in a roundtable discussion of just what the hell they thought they were doing. They all smirked and said, “We’re just giving people what they want.”

Darabont has what you want. If you want slo-mo, he’s got slo-mo. You want showers of sparks, he’s got that too. Computer animation? Check.

Anything to get you to watch Stephen King’s civilized, or anyway humane, or at the very least human prison drama. Hell, if you’re a critic, he throws in Tom Hanks (“our Everyman,” Ebert doesn’t blush to call him).

David Morse and Michael Clarke Duncan act very well. The former is now in a television show, and the latter went on to The Scorpion King. Both productions are no doubt wonderful.