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