🎥🍣 Movie Sushi — The Shawshank Redemption

AdGridley
9 min readOct 19, 2020

Andy’s marriage is well on the rocks. One night, he drives to where he knows she’s cheating on him — with a golf pro. Andy’s been drinking in a few different bars by this time and he has his gun ready in his lap as he waits outside the place in his car. The plan is only to scare them. After a short while deliberating, he sobers up somewhat and throws the gun in a river.

Next day, Andy’s wife and her lover are found riddled with bullets — from a gun like Andy’s. Also, witnesses report hearing them rowing loudly. When the police can’t find the gun, and there are Andy’s fingerprints everywhere, his fate is sealed. The State of Maine hands him down two life sentences to be served back-to-back — at Shawshank prison.

It’s 1947. At Shawshank, new prisoners are unwilling playthings for the more established convicts. The first night is the worst. All the new “fish” — as they’re called — are commanded by the guards to strip naked, then they have a power hose turned on them, then they’re covered in de-lousing powder. Still naked, they must carry all their bedding through the jail to their cell. The taunting and shrieking from the established prisoners continues until one of the new “fish” cracks under the pressure.

The other prisoners have bets between them over who’s going to crack first — there are a lot of cigarettes at stake. That night, with everyone chanting “Fresh fish! Fresh fish!” a new prisoner ends up beaten to death. This is thanks to Captain Hadley, the vicious prison guard in charge. Surprisingly for Red, Andy never made a sound that night — this cost Red cigarettes, but earned the man Red’s respect.

In the mess hall, in his very first plate of food, Andy finds a maggot. He’s shocked, but a nearby, older prisoner asks if he can have it. The man then reveals the bird he keeps in his jacket and passes on the food to him.

After a month of not really talking to anyone, Andy approaches Red — the prison enabler. He requests a rock hammer for his “geology project”. Red is noticing how Andy walks around the prison — like he’s walking in a park, like he had on an invisible coat that protected him. When the rock hammer is acquired, we follow its covert journey through the laundry department and onto the library trolley. This serves each of the cells in turn and, finally, Andy’s. Whenever the rock hammer is transferred to another convict complicit in this carefully orchestrated endeavour, a cigarettes payoff is made to keep everyone sweet.

In a store room, Andy finds himself alone. Ever since his first communal shower, The Sisters have had their eye on him. They’ve asked politely in the past, but ultimately won’t take no for an answer. The Sisters are Shawshank’s resident sodomites and they attack Andy while he’s alone. They beat him and rape him. This was sadly to become a common occurrence for Andy for a while, although he always fought back.

Spring 1949. The roof of the licence plate factory needs resurfacing. The Warden needs a dozen volunteers for a week’s work. Red pulls some strings so that he and his friends get the work. It’s outside, during the summer — a great contrast to stifling temperatures indoors. On the roof, Andy overhears the bullying Capt Hadley talking about some money he’s been left in his brother’s will. Andy pipes up, suggesting he can help. Hadley almost throws him off the roof just for talking. Andy quickly explains himself and is only just spared this death. Andy knows finance inside out, so he can secure Hadley a lot more than he otherwise would have gotten. Andy doesn’t ask for anything in return except that all the prisoners on the roof get three beers apiece while they work up there in the sun. Andy’s plan works beautifully and the prisoners all feel like free men, the “lords of all creation” — if only for a little while. Andy sits there contentedly, not drinking anything himself.

The Sisters corner Andy in the projection room this time and they beat him so badly, he winds up in the infirmary. Because Andy is helping Captain Hadley with his tax issue, things pan out differently this time. Hadley finds out about Andy’s beating and personally puts the ringleader of the Sisters in a wheelchair for life. Here, transferred to another prison the one-time predator lives out his life eating through a straw.

Whenever the Warden tosses cells searching for contraband, Andy always quotes scripture back and forth with him when they reach his cell. The Warden’s two watch words are Discipline and the Bible. The big poster of Rita Hayworth Andy had smuggled in gets to stay up because the Warden’s so impressed by Andy’s knowledge of the Good Book. Andy then gets work as librarian’s assistant — a job created just for him. What this actually means is that now, he’s the unofficial financial advisor for all of the staff at Shawshank, including staff visiting from other prisons.

Andy requests more books for the library. He gets turned down for funding by the Warden, but he gets permission to send letters directly to the State Senate requesting funds every week. Meanwhile, Andy completes the entire staff’s W2 forms at the end of the tax year.

There’s a commotion one day when Brooks is holding Red’s friend Hayworth at knifepoint. Brooks’s been told he’s soon to be released. He’s been in Shawshank prison 50 years and doesn’t know any other type of life. It’s a classic case of institutionalisation. First you hate the walls at Shawshank, then you get used to them, then you come to depend on them. Brooks was important in the prison — on the outside, he’s starting from scratch. He bids a fond farewell to his bird, Jake, letting it fly off into the wild up through the bars of his cell.

In the letters Brooks sends back to Red and the gang, he mentions how the world’s in a big hurry all of a sudden and that he’s depressed. There are automobiles everywhere and he keeps dreaming he’s falling. He’s treated like dirt at the store job they’ve given him and he’s tired of feeling afraid all the time. Seeing no real future, Brooks hangs himself.

After six years of sending weekly letters, Andy gets a reply from the state. They agree to give him $200 and loads of new books for the library. In an act of defiance — and to celebrate — Andy locks himself in the Warden’s office and plays one of Mozart’s operas at full volume. He then discovers he can broadcast it to the whole prison using the network of loudspeakers. The Warden and Capt Hadley have to break down the door to stop this music. The entire prison population benefited from this brief rekindling of their sense of liberty. Andy is inevitably given a long time in solitary confinement (also called the Hole) for this breach of official protocol. But, for him, it was worth it.

Andy has now upped his correspondence to the State Senate to two letters a week. He secures an annual payment of $500 from them as well as hundreds more books. He transforms the library at Shawshank into the best prison library in New England. There’s even a listening cubicle where prisoners can listen to artists like Hank Williams during their allotted time.

The Warden finds he can exploit his prisoners if he’s clever. He’s soon undercutting the other manual labour companies in the nearby area. Any contracts that are awarded to other firms usually give him a kickback to make sure he won’t outbid them. There’s a river of dirty money running through the prison and Andy knows all about it. In order to safely siphon off some funds for himself, Andy creates a phantom man: Randall Stephens. He only exists on paper — but he has a birth certificate and social security just like a regular person. When Red finds out, he’s gobsmacked by the scale of Andy’s financial, labyrinthine shenanigans. Andy says that “on the outside, he was an honest man. But, he had to come to prison to become a crook.”

The library project is a roaring success. Andy’s branched out and is now even helping inmates get their high school diplomas. When Tommy arrives, after some false starts, Andy takes him under his wing. He educates Tommy and teaches him how to read and write. During one of Tommy’s popular prison anecdotes, he talks about a con he spent time with. This man always used to talk about the people he’d double-crossed and even people he’d killed. When Tommy’s story tells of this man murdering a golf pro and his secret lover — and the husband getting the rap — Andy recognises the case instantly. Tommy’s former inmate was talking about Andy’s wife’s murder — the double homicide that saw him sent to Shawshank in the first place.

If Andy leaves Shawshank, the Warden knows he’ll have no-one to cook the books for him. The Warden takes Tommy aside and then has him killed. After this, the mere mention that the Warden’s breaking the law puts Andy in The Hole for a month. After this time, the Warden threatens to seal up the library with bricks and burn all Andy’s hard-fought books. On top of this dispiriting news, the Warden adds yet another month to Andy’s time in solitary.

When he eventually makes it out of the Hole, Andy tells Red how he’d love to retire to Mexico, by the Pacific Ocean. He has in mind a place on the beach called Zihuatanejo (zeh-yoo-ta-nay-oh). Here, he wants to open a small hotel and refurbish a boat he can use. In response to Red’s pessimistic remarks about dreaming like this, he replies that you should “get busy living or get busy dying”. When Red’s released, he should go to Hayfield in Buxton and find a big oak tree. Under this tree is a piece of black, volcanic glass. Under this glass is something really important. Cryptically, Andy gives no indication as to what this important thing might be.

Andy incongruously requests six feet of rope from Red. He also swaps the Warden’s shiny shoes with his own and lifts one of the Warden’s suits. Next morning, Andy’s completely disappeared. Cell 245 is empty. The Warden soon finds that the big poster on the wall is actually covering up the entrance of Andy’s escape tunnel. It’s taken him just under twenty years but he’s done it. The rock hammer he first wanted. The walking slowly in the yard where he’d drop his handful of earth every time. It all makes sense, now. It’s now 1966, he began his sentence in 1947.

On the day before he left, Andy swapped the Warden’s Bible and ledger with his own Bible — complete with the cut-out where he used to keep his rock hammer. He needed a big, electrical storm to hide the sound of him hammering. Every loud lightning strike allowing him, with a rock, to break further through the sewer pipe casing. Once inside, he crawled 500 yards along this pipe through raw sewage to freedom.

During office hours, wearing the suit and good shoes, Andy visits a dozen different banks claiming to be the fictional Randall Stephens. In total, he gets hold of $370,000. On top of this affront to the Warden, Andy also blows the whistle on all the criminal activities at Shawshank prison. He sends the Warden’s ledger to the local paper, which splashes the scandal right across the front page. Police swarm into Shawshank, swiftly arresting Capt Hadley and his men. The Warden kills himself before the police can get to him.

Sometime afterwards, Red gets a postcard from an unknown sender. It invites him to visit Fort Hancock, Texas, somewhere he and Andy often used to talk about. After 40 years of regular parole hearings, Red’s given up trying to be their version of the ideal reformed prisoner. When asked if he’s rehabilitated, he tells them — among other things — that it’s a made up word. Surprisingly, his parole is approved. He’s then given the same grocery-bagging job on the outside that they gave Brooks before he died.

Red is understandably curious about Andy’s oak tree promise. He knows he’s violating his parole, but he’s getting on in years and figures what the hell? He hitch-hikes to Buxton where he finds the oak tree. Under the black rock, there’s a tin box holding a good deal of cash and a letter. Andy says he hopes Red can keep hopeful and that he should seek Andy out in Zihuatanejo (zeh-yoo-ta-nay-oh), Mexico. There, after some more travelling, Red finally walks up the idyllic, deserted beach to find Andy, working happily on a boat.

Starring Tim Robbins. Morgan Freeman. Bob Guntan. Rated 15. Dir Frank Darabont. Released in the UK 1994. Runtime 2hrs 22mins

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AdGridley

Ad teaches & gives speeches on his MH struggle + recovery at institutions right across the world. (Movie Sushi pieces contain spoilers)