The Shawshank Redemption (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Film collectors rejoice! The long thought “dead format” of home physical media continues to grow and expand into the 4K era.  1995’s The Shawshank Redemption has been on many a fan’s wish list for the format since coming out in 2016. Was Andy Dufresne’s story worth the wait for glorious 4K? Did Warner continue its streak of great looking 4K discs? Releasing today (9/14/2021) in standard and steelbook forms, find out more about the film and it’s new disc below, and click the paid link at the end if you haven’t gotten your copy already!


The brilliant drama of The Shawshank Redemption settles on the shoulders of a friendship between Andy and Red (Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman) as they navigate the waters of life sentences in Shawshank prison.  The film opens as Andy is being tried for the murder of his wife and her lover on the side.  Andy swears his innocence, but the judge says he’s “cold” and sentences Andy to two life terms.  Upon entry to the cold, drafty and decrepit Shawshank, Andy and others are put into categories of who may break first.  Red puts his cigarettes on Andy.  Seeing something in the man, Red becomes a mentor and good friend to Andy later in the story.

I have always admired the way that Shawshank unfolds.  Starting with a brief trial scene, you live out Andy’s experience with him.  At first, stoic and hiding his fear, Andy finds common ground with the prisoners and later the guards (in a genius move, Andy uses his skills as a banker to save the guards money on taxes…) As Andy and Red (who tries for years to get paroled…) develop a bond and friendship, they become an unstoppable team and support system.  With all that going on, there are also heinous prison villains such as the masochistic and bible thumping warden (Bob Gunton in a steely performance) and the “sisters” a group of sodomizing life prisoners, led by Bogs (Mark Rolston) who want to break Andy down and reduce him to being their love slave/tormentee.

The pacing of the film is a thing of beauty.  When looking at the length of time (just over 2 hours and 20 minutes), you’d expect a slower lull to the pacing.  What you get instead is a story packed full of characters, amazing revelations and suspense and beautiful quiet dramatic moments also.  Yes, the story is all about the life of prisoners, but the lives we are let into are those of otherwise good human beings, stuck in a less than desirable place and finding out how to make friends, find support and keep on living.  We see the strife of life after prison for someone who never thought they’d get parole, and we also see what happens when smart men outsmart those trying to bog them down in their lives.


  • Encoding: HEVC/H.265
  • Resolution: 4K (2160p)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Layers:BD-66
  • Clarity/Detail: The Shawshank Redemption is a film with many home media releases. Each one improving upon the previous one. This 4K edition is no different. Roger Deakins’ brilliant photography has finally been elevated to its first intent, and things look incredible right from the outset. Starting with a deep dark opening, moving to a contrasting, cold courtroom and then onto the titular prison, there are so many amazing variances in this wonderfully clear, multi layered 4K transfer.  Detail is evident from Andy’s car in the opening scenes, to the fabric fibers of his suit, then later the prisoner’s clothing.  On a hot day as the prisoners are tarring a roof, you see the imminent sweatiness of their skin.  There is nothing but upgrade in this transfer!
  • Depth: The dark and dank prison setting for the film is full of beautiful camera work. Sweeping aerial shots outdoors or close and tight shots in offices or prison cells show all the facets of wonderful work done on sets and on location.
  • Black Levels: Deakins sure does know his way around shooting dark scenes. Moments in the film go to the edge of darkness, where you may have to really work to make out the shadowy look of the film.  Not a complaint in the least, we see deep blacks with no crush in any scenes.
  • Color Reproduction: This is where things get really interesting for the transfer. One of the most plaguing issues for this film at home has been the inconsistent color reproduction.  Finally, we see the film as it was meant to be presented. Gone are the weird orangey looking scenes and now, we have a far more natural color palette all throughout.  The outdoor scenes look especially rich, with a wider spectrum of colors to take in.
  • Flesh Tones: Just as I stated above, we finally get flesh tones as they’re originally intended. No longer do the prisoners have that spray tan look.  Finally!
  • Noise/Artifacts: Clean


  • Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish
  • Dynamics: This new for this release lossless 5.1 track gets the job done. As a mostly dialogue driven film, the necessity for immersion isn’t as high.  While I’d have loved to see it anyway, the track works well with the source material.  Dialogue, sound effects and music sound great, and no weird variances for the volume levels either!
  • Low Frequency Extension: The spare moments of subwoofer usage offer deep bass and nice rumbling for music too. This isn’t demo material, but suits the subject perfectly.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Surrounds support the source excellently as well. The prison is drafty, echo-y and full of sounds everywhere.  This is where immersion would have helped, but with things limited to 5.1, you’re still in the middle of the lively setting.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: Mostly front and center, with no issues for hearing any of the beautiful dialogue.


This is a place for disappointment for this release.  Besides, the extremely disappointing cover art (A reprint of the digibook artwork or poster art would’ve been preferable…) and the equally disappointing steelbook artwork, the extras are all ports from the DVD era and the 2008 Blu-ray.  Nothing new, nothing commemorative, just the same ol’ same ol’.  The audio commentary is the highlight and is included on the 4K disc.  The other extras are on the bundled 2008 Blu-ray and are:

  • Hope Springs Eternal: A Look Back at The Shawshank Redemption (31:01)
  • Shawshank: The Redeeming Feature (48:17)
  • The Sharktank Redemption (24:46)
  • The Charlie Rose Show with Frank Darabont, Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman (42:21)
  • Shawshank Stills (17:20)
  • Theatrical Re-Release Trailer (1:59)


For me, The Shawshank Redemption totally lives up to the hype it’s received.  The film is a warm, soulful film filled to the brim with film richness.  The characters are all worth investing time into, and we care so much for Andy, Red and their buddies as we watch the years roll by.  When we get to the final payoff, we are as much overjoyed as the characters on screen and we are treated to an extremely satisfying ending for our story heroes.  With all the pain and sadness that could be the center of a film like this, it’s lovely to have a beautiful human story instead.  If you’ve never seen the film, this is the perfect time to witness it, in all it’s 4K glory.

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