Cool Stuff In Movies #1 / by Jose Barbosa

To say that The Shawshank Redemption was a "grower" is to perhaps simplify what was to become the film's eventual fame. Released in 1994 it's become one of the most loved films made in the last twenty years, receiving the audience it deserved only after it was released on DVD. Why it never took off in the movie theaters has confused me ever since, most of the cast and crew seem to point to its atypical title as a barrier to enticing the general public; something which only adds to my confusion. (beware, spoilers be ahead)

It's a beautiful movie, shot with almost faultless  direction by Frank Darabont. Those helicopter shots flying over Shawshank penitentiary make the point that all those inside are defined by its walls, while Thomas Newman's score adds a kind of dignified melancholy and seems to say: places like this are inevitable in a world where its guardians are corrupt.

There's plenty of cool stuff in this film, but for some reason there's one moment that's remained in my mind ever since I first sat down to watch it. It comes at 1:33 in the accompanying clip. Andy Dufrense has just crawled through "500 yards of shit smelling foulness" and the next we see of him he's back in what was his natural environment before the frame that got him locked up in Shawshank all those years ago. He's withdrawing the money the crooked warden Norton has laundered by getting kickbacks for using prison labour on public works. With the deal done he's asked if there's "anything else." He replies "yes, could you add this to your outgoing mail?" It's evidence exposing warden Norton's corruption and it's addressed to a local newspaper, the repercussions of which prompts Norton to put a gun in his mouth.


Look at the shit eating grinning on Andy's face, he's enacted his revenge and he doesn't even have to mail it himself. It's a wonderful moment where all Andy's planning has come to fruition. And yet it's also Andy playing a part so the bank doesn't suspect anything. The smugness we see on his face is Andy before he went to prison, the next time we see him he's wearing a ragged shirt and hard at honest work sanding a boat on a beach. Apart from being an advisable course of action after breaking out of jail, Andy's keeping his head down because prison and his wife's death have changed him for the better.

There's something really cool about getting someone else to do your mailing for you. I confess that ever since seeing this scene I've always taken pleasure in asking people to add my mail to their outgoing post.