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The Shawshank Redemption: 4K Ultra HD [2-Disc]
(Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown, et al / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital / R / 2021 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: This inspiring drama tells the story of Andy Dufresne (Robbins), a prominent banker unjustly convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment at Maine’s Shawshank Prison.

He is befriended by longtime convict Red (Freeman) who’s been in long enough to know the ropes and helps him cope with the frightening realities of prison life.

As the two men grow closer, so does the sense of hope that can truly set them free.

4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Verdict: Warner Bros. is expanding their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray catalog offerings this month with the release of the masterfully cinematic The Shawshank Redemption coming to 4K Ultra HD video format this September 14th, 2021.

For my money, this The Shawshank Redemption: 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital combo packs sharpness takes a fairly large step forward from others in their 4K Ultra HD catalog and even comes with HDR (High Dynamic Range) for the complete 4K Ultra HD experience, of course.

So, what we have is The Shawshank Redemption presented to us as a two-disc combo pack with a sheet for a Digital HD Copy. Other stand out points you should know are: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: Native 4K (2160p), HDR: HDR10, Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 and Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1.

Featuring Dolby Vision and HDR10 for brighter, deeper, and way more lifelike colors, as with most all 4K UHDs, everything that we watch features these qualities - but somehow, this film gloriously shines within them all.

Noticeably crisper with the overall clarity receiving an obvious boost here on this release, what is more is that it is enjoyably noticeable. In fact, for me, one of the biggest beneficiaries of this is the last days of Brooks Hatlen (played with aplomb by James Whitmore).

For as ultimately redeeming as The Shawshank Redemption truly is, it does have its fair share of tragic moments. One such moment is told through the eyes of Brooks, a prisoner from the main gang we follow through Shawshank who is paroled after 49 years of institutionalization. While he makes his best effort, Brooks ultimately cannot handle the modern world and its fast paced ways.

The outside bewilderment and the intenseness of the his much-changed hometown landscape, now run by younger punks, is all etched on the hallowed face of Brooks. His eyes are sunken, his face pale, his hands shaking, he knows he will not last long in the outside world.

Another, as you would well expect, involves Morgan Freeman’s role as Red, for it is iconic for so many reasons. Chiefly among them the fact that his voiceover bathes the film’s moments - even the grimy ones - in the glow of a bedtime story.

One such moment that reflects this is the scene where, after Andy squirrels his way into the good graces of the guards on the roof of the prison, he and his compatriots enjoy an icy cold Bohemia-style beer, courtesy of the hardest screw that ever walked a turn at Shawshank!

As for the audio, well we have a choice of the following: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), French: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps) and Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps).

As for the story itself, well, the story of this film takes place over a twenty-year period between 1947 and 1967. Andy Dufresne, a young banker from Portland, Maine, is wrongly convicted of murdering his wife and her lover, and sentenced to life imprisonment at Shawshank.

The prison is a brutal place, and Andy is frequently beaten and sexually assaulted by a gang of homosexual inmates called The Sisters.

Two things, however, help him to survive. One is his friendship with another convict, Red, who has a reputation for being able to acquire almost any item and, for a price, to smuggle it into the prison.

The other is his financial expertise, which he puts to good use, becoming a tax and financial adviser to the prison guards and even the Warden himself.

As a reward for these services, Andy is given a privileged job in the prison library and protection from molestation. To avenge their attacks on Andy, the leader of the Sisters is so badly beaten by the guards that he is crippled for life; Andy is not molested again.

The Warden devises a scheme under which inmates are put to work on local construction projects. The purpose of this is ostensibly to prepare them for life after they are released, but in reality he is exploiting their free labor for his own personal profit, and using Andy’s financial skills to launder the proceeds.

This arrangement seems to work to Andy’s advantage, because of the extra privileges he is granted, but things change when a new young prisoner named Tommy Williams is sent to Shawshank.

Tommy has evidence that could secure Andy’s release; a former cellmate in another prison has confessed to him that he committed the murders for which Andy was convicted.

Tommy confides this secret to the Warden who, fearing that his illegal schemes will be revealed should Andy ever be released, arranges to have Tommy murdered by a corrupt guard.

There is a long history of American prison films, including the likes of I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, Cool Hand Luke, Brubaker and the more recent The Last Castle (Frank Darabont was later to direct another prison film, The Green Mile, once again based, like The Shawshank Redemption on a Stephen King story).

Most of these were made with a liberal social agenda in mind, aiming to expose the harsh prison conditions and thereby inspire their reform.

The Shawshank Redemption falls, to some extent, within this tradition; it is made from a basically liberal viewpoint and vividly depicts the brutality of prison life, although the fact that it is a period piece, set several decades in the past, might suggest that social issues were not the filmmakers’ sole concern.

Perhaps more important are the analysis of the nature of freedom and of the relationship between Andy and Red.

The word prison, from the French pris (meaning taken), merely indicates a place where captives are held, and the authorities, especially in America, prefer to describe many prisons by some more positive term such as penitentiary or reformatory which implies their purpose of rehabilitating criminals.

Shawshank, a prison where the Warden and guards are at least as crooked as the inmates, has precisely the opposite effect. Andy goes in innocent of any crime and comes out guilty of being an accessory to corruption and fraud.

Yet, despite his involvement in the Warden’s dishonesty, Andy retains a certain integrity; he refuses to give up hope and refuses to allow himself to be beaten by the system. Although he is in prison he has found a sort of freedom.

A key moment comes when he defies the guards to play a Mozart aria over the prison loudspeakers for all the inmates to hear - a reminder of spiritual values even in the harshest of environments.

Red faces a different problem. He fears that he has become so institutionalized that he will be unable to survive freedom, as happened to another long-term prisoner who committed suicide shortly after his release.

In prison, his role as the fixer who can obtain anything, be it a packet of cigarettes, a rock hammer or a poster of Rita Hayworth, makes him the king of the inmates (these latter two items will play an important role in the ever-evolving plot).

On the outside he will be just another ex-con trying to make ends meet in a dead-end job. Paradoxically, he is more free in jail than he will be on the outside.

I will not give away the ending, but it involves Andy repaying Red’s previous kindnesses by showing him how he can be free in all senses of the word.

The film was not a great box office success when first released but has since acquired a status as one of the classics of the modern American cinema; it has now supplanted The Godfather as number one on IMDb’s Top 250 list.

The film would perhaps not be number one on my personal list, but it is a fine one and would certainly be in my top 250, perhaps the top 100. Its two stars, Tim Robbins as Andy and Morgan Freeman as Red, are both excellent.

Its initial lack of success may have had something to do with its rather clumsy title. Shawshank is not a word that will mean anything to the average person (according to one story Darabont was once asked how his rickshaw film was going) and redemption, except in technical legal contexts, normally has a religious connotation.

This is not an explicitly religious film; indeed, in its portrayal of Warden Norton as a sanctimonious, Bible-bashing hypocrite, it can be seen as critical of religion.

Nevertheless, the word redemption is perhaps appropriate in this context, after undergoing the hell of Shawshank Andy and Red manage to find a sort of secular redemption.

In closing, it may be this message of hope that accounts for the film’s continuing popularity and if so, for that alone, I salute you.

Special Features:
• Commentary by Frank Darabont
• “Hope Springs Eternal: A Look Back at The Shawshank Redemption”
• “Shawshank: The Redeeming Feature”
• “The SharkTank Redemption”
• 5x Stills Galleries
• “Bogs Takes a Fall” Storyboards
• “New Fish Arrive” Storyboards

The Shawshank Redemption, which received seven Oscar® nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Original Score and Best Screenplay, will be released on Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack and Digital on September 14th, 2021 it was announced today by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Released in 1994, the film marked the feature directorial debut of its screenwriter, Frank Darabont.

The Shawshank Redemption, the emotionally moving portrayal of a friendship between men under the harshest of circumstances, stars Academy Award® winning actor Tim Robbins (Mystic River, Bull Durham) and Academy Award® nominee Morgan Freeman (Driving Miss Daisy, Unforgiven, Bruce Almighty).

In 2015, the United States Library of Congress selected The Shawshank Redemption for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Based on Stephen King’s novella “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” the movie won Frank Darabont an Oscar® nomination for his adapted screenplay and critical acclaim for his directorial debut.

Mr. Darabont is one of only six filmmakers in history with the unique distinction of having his first two feature films receive nominations for the Best Picture Academy Award: 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption and 1999’s The Green Mile.

Ultra HD* showcases 4K resolution with High Dynamic Range (HDR) and a wider color spectrum, offering consumers brighter, deeper, more lifelike colors for a home entertainment viewing experience like never before.

The Shawshank Redemption will be available on Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack for $24.99 ERP and includes an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc with the feature film in 4K with HDR and a Blu-ray disc with the feature film and special features.

Fans can also own The Shawshank Redemption in 4K Ultra HD via purchase from select digital retailers beginning on September, 2021.

The Shawshank Redemption | Original Trailer