The Films of Frank Darabont
The Shawshank Redemption (July 29/08)
Based on a short story by Stephen King, The Shawshank Redemption has certainly earned its reputation as one of the most effective prison movies in cinematic history - as the film, written and directed by Frank Darabont, contains virtually all of the tropes and devices that the genre has come to be associated with. The ensuing inclusion of such familiar elements as the Evil Warden and the Sadistic Guard are undeniably put to brilliant use by Darabont, with the end result a piece of work that - aside from a midsection that's almost egregiously episodic - manages to hold the viewer transfixed virtually from start to finish. Tim Robbins stars as Andy Dufresne, a mild-mannered banker who eventually develops a deep bond with fellow inmate Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman) during a double-lifetime sentence within the walls of Shawshank Prison. While it's virtually impossible to overstate the effectiveness of the two lead performances, Darabont does a superb job of transforming even the most minor of supporting characters into vividly-drawn, thoroughly compelling figures - something that is, of course, due in no small part to the expectedly accomplished efforts of such familiar faces as Bob Gunton, Clancy Brown, and William Sadler. Yet as fully realized as Shawshank's landscape inevitably winds up becoming, there's little doubt that the film's most indelible element remains the touching friendship between Robbins and Freeman's respective characters. The chemistry between the two actors - coupled with career-best performances from the pair - ensures that The Shawshank Redemption ultimately packs an emotional wallop that one hardly would have expected from such an endeavor, and it's consequently not difficult to see why the movie's esteem has grown considerably in the years since its theatrical release.
The Green Mile
The Mist (November 22/07)
The Mist, based on the novella by Stephen King, follows a group of disparate characters - including Thomas Jane's David, Laurie Holden's Amanda, and Marcia Gay Harden's Mrs. Carmody - as they're forced to hole up in a supermarket after a strange (and, ultimately, deadly) mist rolls into town. Director Frank Darabont has infused The Mist with a B-movie sensibility that proves to be entirely appropriate, as there's certainly no denying the inherent familiarity of the situation nor the archetypal nature of most of the film's characters. The glut of recognizable faces within the supporting cast does initially lend the proceedings a disaster-movie sort of vibe, though there does reach a point at which Darabont slowly-but-surely starts to tighten the screws and ratchet up the tension. Some questionable special effects notwithstanding, Darabont has peppered The Mist with a number of genuinely terrifying sequences - with a disastrous trip to a nearby pharmacy easily the highlight of the film. But at a running time of over two hours, there's ultimately little doubt that the movie is at least 20 minutes longer than it needs to be - something that's surely reflected in Darabont's emphasis on the religious cult that quickly forms within the market. While it's easy enough to discern the point that the director is making here, the over-the-top nature of these scenes ensures that a little goes a long way. Still, the movie's underlying apocalyptic feel - cemented by the unbelievably grim (and downright haunting) finale - is more than effective enough to carry it through a few slow spots.