Thursday, 11 July 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1994: Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption

Tim Robbins did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for Sag, for portraying Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption.

Despite the Shawshank Redemption having been nominated for best picture and the secondary lead/narrator Morgan Freeman being nominated for best actor, Tim Robbins who plays the primary lead was not Oscar nominated. This in part may have been due to the nature of the character of Andy Dufresne and the way that Robbins plays him. Robbins plays a man who is convicted of the murder of his wife and her lover and is sentenced to life in prison even though he is in fact innocent. Even though that is the case Robbins does not actually go out of his way to make Dufresne likable and in fact shows why he would be unable to gain sympathy from the judge and jury as well why some prisoners would see him as stuck up. 

Tim Robbins does not make Andy the traditional hero of the institution in same way Paul Newman did Cool Hand Luke or Jack Nicholson in One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest, instead Robbins makes Andy a much colder hero who tries to find life in the prison not so much through a intense radical energy, but instead through far more deliberate and precise action. Robbins colder take is the right approach as it allows there to be a mystery in Andy as a character, and not just in regards to whether or not he committed the murder. Robbins as well allows a certain mystery in terms of the motivation of his action within the prison that only adds to his character without making him seem underdeveloped.

Andy Dufresne is not like the rest of the prisoners and Robbins is very effective in portraying this. It is not just because he is an actually innocent man, but Robbins gets across the way Defresne is never just another one of the men. This is not to say he is apart from them or anything close to being a snob as some of the men believe him to be. Instead Robbins brings about this resilience in Andy that is tremendous. It is something quite subtle in his performance, and not really something that stands right out. It is always there in his portrayal though of Andy as there is that extra element in the man that keeps his soul alive even while his body is imprisoned.

Robbins though does not make Dufrense some sort of immortal man, or some otherworldly creature who has a supernatural barrier around. Robbins makes him still a man in a horrible situation, even if he does have that resolve in him not to ever be destroyed by it. He physically captures the role though in the scenes of distress particularly when he is abused by the guards, other prisoners, and the evil warden. The strength in Andy is shown in Robbins's performance by the fact that Andy is never full defeated. There is something within him always that keeps his head above the water, something that always allows him to overcome any hardship that he faces in the prison.

The crux of his performance though is his chemistry with Morgan Freeman's Red the long time prisoner who is also the prison scrounger. Their relationship is interesting one because although the friendship is very understated yet so very poignant. There discussions about life in and outside of the prison are always quiet, but always just so absolutely genuine in the connection Robbins and Freeman portray between the two men. In these conversations Robbins also gets to reveal more to Andy as a character. There is not a lot about his past but in the parts he reveals he is very moving in showing the regrets in the man not due to the murder he was accused of, but due to the mistakes he had made in his past.

Robbins has a certain flow with the material here that brings to life the power of the story wonderfully. It is rather interesting in for the most par this is not one of those loud passionate performances that enforces the theme of the film. Robbins's performance is largely underplayed and his performance works in tandem with Frank Darabont's direction. There are so many beautiful moments in the film and most are a combination of visual, story, music, character, and the performances. Not a single one of these elements overwhelms the other making such an emotional impact. Where Robbins stands within them is in that face of satisfaction, a purely good satisfaction from the humanity Andy manages to bring back to the men within the institution.

8 comments:

Michael Patison said...

I completely agree, though I don't think many, if any, would disagree. He's simply superb. I especially love those moments you mentioned when he discusses his past. His discussions of those times as well as of his desire to be free as he deserves are always so beautifully understated. He almost never raises his voice, especially when talking about being innocent and undeserving of his unfortunate position, and yet he has this unassuming, but incredibly electric presence in every moment. A lesser performance would have used those moments with his past to go for broad emotional strokes and would have ruined Andy as a character in doing so.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

How the hell can I even argue with this summation? Also, are you going to review Whitmore for Supporting?

Louis Morgan said...

Very likely.

Michael Patison said...

I'm looking forward to Whitmore. As you probably remember/know, I think very highly of his performance and I hope he's grown on you.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

As am I. Whitmore's monologue is probably in my top 10 saddest movie moments.

Mark said...

My all time favorite movie. I'm glad you enjoyed the performance.

Michael Patison said...

Same here koook.

US-eh? said...

just viewed Shawshank after years and could not put it down, electrifying in the introspective analysis of why prisons fail; why they are the most dehumanizing and destined to fail because the have to make it a power game and those who have little life outside their jobs, the guards, are the most power corrupted, along with the Warden. In real life I would hope it is not so, but, I suspect elements are still prominent. was stunned that Robbins didn't get a best actor nomination; Morgan Freeman should have gotten the nod as Best Supporting Actor, as well as James Whitmore. There is a reason is ranked #1 on the IMDB film survey out of 250 movies. enthralling doesn't cut it. Warden played by ????? also could have been nominated. Amazing screenplay by the director Frank D. and equally amazing book by Stephen King. My son (kind of ) convinced me the reason it grossed only $28 million (Forest Gump $328 mill; Pulp Fiction over $100 mill) was because people really are uncomfortable with films that tear down our institutions in such a devastating manner. I hope that is wrong, but I suspect it has legs.