Warner brings Frank Darabont’s masterpiece The Shawshank Redemption to 4K UHD Blu-ray featuring a new 4K scan from the original camera negative.
The Production: 5/5
Hailed by critics and the few who screened it theatrically, The Shawshank Redemption is one of those cinematic masterpieces that didn’t really find its audience until it arrived on home video and cable television. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Screenplay Adaptation (Frank Darabont), Best Cinematography (Roger Deakins), and Best Actor (Morgan Freeman), yet took home no statuettes that evening. The film only earned $16MM at the box office on a $25MM budget, yet made up most of that deficit from VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, Blu-ray, cable television, and assumingly now 4K disc and digital. In 2015, it was selected by the US Library of Congress to be included in the National Film Registry, declaring it as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Cameron Yee reviewed the film on Home Theater Forum for its 2008 Blu-ray release:
Despite serving two life sentences for the murder of his wife and her lover, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) has the audacity to hope. And it’s not that the Shawshank Penitentiary isn’t trying its hardest to squash it, whether it’s the ongoing molestation by “The Sisters” or the iron fist of Warden Norton (Bob Gunton) putting him in his place. But there’s something in Andy that makes him persist, a quality that makes fellow lifer Red (Morgan Freeman) first take notice and then become his closest friend. Maybe it’s that Andy maintains and wholly believes he’s innocent of the crime he’s in for; or maybe he’s just crazy. Whatever the reason, Andy’s sole source of strength spreads to those around him, incrementally improving their lives if not helping them feel like normal men once in awhile.
But two life sentences is a lot of time – to take abuse, to be made someone’s lapdog – and it would take someone superhuman to not eventually crack, forego one’s hopes and acquiesce to the fate he’s been given. So maybe after 20 years at Shawshank, it’s time for Andy to take a different tack.
Written and directed by Frank Darabont and adapted from a Stephen King novella, The Shawshank Redemption is what many would call “pitch perfect.” Though undeniably sympathetic to its inmate characters, it avoids being overly scrutinized for that sympathy by being a period piece. Set between 1947 and 1967, the layers of time and nostalgia insulate the characters from our judgment. Of course it also helps that the warden and his chief guard (played by Clancy Brown) are bullies and really no better than those they oversee, though the actors’ avoidance of caricature goes a long way towards making the situation believable. Robbins and Freeman also turn in exemplary performances, the former offering boyish innocence with quiet strength and the latter a pitch and weariness that lays bare his character’s decades of incarceration. And though having a run time of almost two-and-a-half hours, no moment feels unnecessary or wasted – if anything we want more time with the characters. It’s a swiftness of the minute hand I’m sure the Shawshank inmates would do anything to experience. Life in prison without its agonies, The Shawshank Redemption is highly recommended.
3D Rating: NA
The Shawshank Redemption was photographed and completed on 35mm film. For this new 4K UHD release, Warner has gone back and scanned the original camera negative in 4K, creating a new 4K digital intermediate that is simply gorgeous and this HEVC-encoded 2160p transfer with HDR10 high dynamic range puts the previous Blu-ray and DVD releases to shame. Don’t let the opening Warner logo fool you as it did me (it almost looks like a non-HDR logo was used), as once the movie begins, it is apparent that much care went into this transfer. First of all, the film’s intended aspect ratio of 1.85:1 has been preserved (unlike previous releases that opened up the frame to 1.78:1). Detail is excellent, from facial features to the fine stitching in the fabrics of costumes. Highlights are excellently handled, appearing more natural where they appeared close to being blown out on the Blu-ray. Film grain is present and organic, but hardly noticeable (likely due to the scanning of the negative). Black levels are nice and deep, with strong shadow detail throughout. A big thank you to Robert Harris for helping me understand what
I was seeing at the beginning of the film.
The film’s default audio is the same 5.1 mix that has accompanied the film since its debut on DVD back in 1999 (the film was released theatrically with a Dolby Stereo matrixed surround track), this time in lossless DTS-HD MA and sounds nearly identical to the Blu-ray’s Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track. This is a dialogue-driven film for the most part, always clear and understandable. LFE is still a bit anemic, mostly present to lend some low-end support at times.
Special Features: 4/5
The only extra included on the 4K UHD disc is the Director’s Commentary track recorded for the 2-disc DVD release from 2004. All other special features can be found on the included 2008 Blu-ray release, which were originally included on the 2004 2-disc special edition DVD.
Audio Commentary by Writer and Director Frank Darabont
Hope Springs Eternal: A Look Back at the Shawshank Redemption (480i; 31:01)
Shawshank: The Redeeming Feature (480i; 48:17)
“The Charlie Rose Show” Interview (480i; 42:21)
The Sharktank Redemption (480i; 24:46)
Shawshank Stills Gallery (1080p; 15:58)
Shawshank Collectibles (1080p; 1:22)
Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 1:59)
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital 4K copy (where available) on Movies Anywhere.
Warner’s new 4K UHD release of The Shawshank Redemption is a most necessary upgrade for anyone who has owned any of the previous Blu-ray releases. Highly Recommended.
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