Brubaker, played by Robert Redford, goes into the Wakefield Penitentiary to become the future warden, but enters anonymously as a prisoner. Brubaker, and the viewer, get to witness the corruption first hand for the first thirty minutes of the movie. Wakefield does not have guards, but instead, trusties who basically have free reign over the prison. The trusties are allowed to carry a weapon and get time off of their sentences for shooting escapees, and this holds most of the blame for the brutality that went on inside Wakefield.
The conditions inside the prison were beyond terrible, and the commonplaces included beatings, bribery, rape, and slum living conditions. After witnessing the corruption first hand and somehow making it out unscathed, Brubaker jumps into his planned position as warden this is a surprise to everyone in the prison and the viewer. When Brubaker takes charge he begins his plan of progressive reform for the prison.
While Brubaker is pushing his progressive reform, more people on his side are being hurt than helped. For example, an old man named Abraham, who had done his time and three years over, agreed to tell Brubaker where the graves of murder victims were on Wakefield’s farm, and he became a victim because of it. Brubaker, in my opinion, does a great job of portraying the past need for progressive reform in prisons.
The advertisement of the movie does a great job of ruining the surprise move to warden by Brubaker though. It takes the punch out of the climax of the movie. Brubaker has a great story, but it leaves the viewer with many unanswered questions, mostly coming from a lack of character development. Even with a lack of telling the characters’ stories I think Brubaker serves its purpose well, by giving a fictional, but rather historically accurate, depiction of the horrible condition of pre-reform prisons.