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Freeman’s Finest

February 1, 2010

by John Farr

A look at Morgan Freeman’s most memorable movies.


Glory (1985)

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

True story of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick), son of Massachusetts abolitionists, who’s appointed to lead the first black regiment for the Union in the Civil War. Before this group is able to prove their mettle in battle, Shaw must fight injustice within the Union hierarchy, as superior officers doubt the regiment’s ability to fight and seem unwilling (at first) to even equip them properly. Ultimately, Shaw’s faith in his men is borne out heroically.

WHY I LOVE IT:

Edward Zwick’s vivid Civil War epic boasts terrific battle sequences, but aside from the story’s inherent fascination, what sets this movie apart are the incredible performances glimpsed in between the gunfire. Broderick brings to Shaw a nuanced mix of determination and vulnerability, but Denzel Washington virtually steals the picture as a defiant enlisted man. (He won an Oscar for this.) Morgan Freeman also shines as a wise, seasoned regimental sergeant. Both great entertainment and history lesson.


Unforgiven (1992)

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

A nasty customer in the western town of Big Whisky cuts up a prostitute. Unsatisfied with the local sheriff’s progress in the case, her colleagues offer a bounty for the culprit. Learning this, retired gunslinger Bill Munny (Clint Eastwood) picks up his weapon once again, and old colleague Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) goes along for the ride.

WHY I LOVE IT:

The craggy, mellowing Eastwood directs himself admirably in this first-class oater. It’s scenic, true to the period and includes excellent support from Freeman, Hackman and the late Richard Harris in a particularly showy role. With the dark and atmospheric “Unforgiven,” Eastwood carries on the western film tradition in winning style.


The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

Sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife, former banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) keeps to himself at Shawshank Penitentiary, but that doesn’t always help protect him from the molestations of other inmates. Andy befriends fellow lifer Ellis “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman), a man who knows how to procure forbidden items, and even begins to manage the warden’s finances in exchange for certain privileges. But as the years pass, Red discovers that Andy has something else on his mind besides comfort behind bars.

WHY I LOVE IT:

Adapted from a Stephen King story, Darabont’s “Redemption” reinvigorates the prison-drama genre with a robust, deeply touching story about courage, friendship, and the persistence of hope amid the regimentation of life in the Big House. Robbins gives a masterful performance as the aloof, enigmatic inmate whom everyone-including the bulls-comes to respect. And Freeman brings his own Southern gentility to the role of Red, the wizened con whose bond with Andy takes him to a very unexpected place: the outside world.


Visit Best Movies by Farr for more great DVD recommendations.

  • comments (0)
  • Nikki

    Freeman layers his characters so well that they stay with you no matter how small the role. His Walter in “Brubaker” is that kind of character. “Nurse Betty” and his VO in “March of the Penguins” stay with you. In “Lean On Me” you believe he’s a HS principal. That’s what good acting is – to make you belive.

  • Roland

    Freeman is quite a versatile actor and he is comfortable with many types of roles. He is a consumate actor. I hope to see him in many more movies.

  • BenInBrooklyn

    I remember Freeman as a rough character in another prison flick – Brubaker – a mid-70s Robert Redford prison reform flick. Freeman plays a rough and tumble inmate who spends most of his time in abusive solitary confinement.

  • rayban

    Speaking of Morgan Freeman’s recent films, I liked him very much in Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby”, which had such a memorable performance from Hilary Swank. Morgan Freeman won an Oscar for this Supporting Actor Performance. Of course, Hilary Swank won her second Oscar for Best Actress. And, of course, the film itself and Eastwood’s directon won well-deserved Oscars, too.