The Green Mile
Release Date: December 10, 1999
Director: Frank Darabont
Stars: Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse
Runtime: 189 min
Tagline: Miracles do happen
Did you know? Originally set in 1932, the timeframe was bumped to 1935 so the movie Top Hat could be featured.
The lives of guards on Death Row are affected by one of their charges: a black man accused of child murder and rape, yet who has a mysterious gift.
The Green Mile follows one of the most miraculous stories of fantasy and mystery to ever be told. It’s filled with fantastic performances, awesome characters, a great story, great direction and superb writing.
This film is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. It combines crime, drama, mystery and fantasy and makes it one of the best features I’ve ever seen. The good majority of the characters are Death Row inmates, so there is a good helping of crime in this, as each of those inmates did a horrendous crime to get in there. However, a good percentage of the inmates’ fatal sins are never exposed. The purpose of this is for when the inmates take a seat in Old Sparky, the Green Mile’s infamous electric chair, we must get emotional. We wouldn’t get as emotional as we do with a select few characters if we actually knew they were convicted rapists, like one character is revealed as in the source novel. One of the primary characters, John Coffey (“like the drink, only not spelled the same”), is actually accused of child murder and rape. There’s great emotional depth in the feature, and it’s surprising how emotional an audience can get about a few inmates dying for their sins. Both the mystery and the fantasy interlap with each other, because the real mystery is what Coffey’s gift is exactly, and what his purpose is in the dark world.
Stephen King is the one to write the original novel, and he is a great person to analyze the darkness of the world, and the darkness that fill the hearts of some people. This brings in the concept of the world only being a dark home, with people who kill others for joy, or killers who use little girls’ love to kill each other with. This is a story of some inmates who can actually feel remorse, and die for others.
Michael Clarke Duncan is the best he has ever been as John Coffey. He may be a giant, but he is such a tender soul with a heart as big as a semi-truck. The fact that this brute of a man is afraid of the dark reminds me that the world is a scary place, and he is just as vulnerable to the dangers of the universe as much as Mr. Jingles may be. Even though Coffey is in no certain danger of being squashed by Percy Wetmore.
Percy is one of the most despicable characters of the feature, but he is really a fascinating character, who is well-performed by Doug Hutchison. Percy is established as a young, ignorant man who thinks he is the only one in the world with connections, and he doesn’t understand that there are consequences with every action, something he learns the hard way. He is also hungry for power, but power is earned and not given freely. He is a young person who really, for some reason or another, wants to see a death up close. This adds a disturbing aspect to the feature, but a very necessary one. It all goes in the expertly mended mix of genres and concepts.
One of the meanest cats around town, among the prisoners, is Wild Bill (played by Sam Rockwell, who seems like he had a hell of a time). He is a sort-of comic relief, but he is also a character that is critical to the story development. Much like Percy, he is the sort of character that you might hate, but you can’t help but appreciate.
Tom Hanks delivers a solid performance as Paul Edgecomb with the help of others in the cast: David Morse as Brutus, Bonnie Hunt as Paul’s wife, James Cromwell, Michael Jeter as Eduard Delacroix, Sam Rockwell and Doug Hutchison as the despicable Percy Wetmore. However, no one is better than Michael Clarke Duncan. Duncan is in his finest hour with his performance as the tender John Coffey, a giant, uneducated black man who has seen too much darkness in the world.
A vast majority of the film is set in the prison, with only ones’ home life expressed are Paul’s and the warden, Hal Moores’. It actually works for it. There are amazing characters all-around, even Percy, one of the most despicable characters in all of cinema. With fine pacing as well as characters you’ll find yourself so enveloped with, this film is equal parts beautiful, emotional, and extremely engaging.
The direction is great, Darabont wonderfully brings King’s novel to life. He may have left a few things out, but he stayed faithful to the key elements. And, often enough, the reason Darabont left a few things out was to allow us to feel emotional if anything happened to them. Darabont writes in all sorts of hidden elements, even adding onto King’s novel. These changes aren’t nearly as severe as Kubrick’s to King’s The Shining, so it’s great he stayed so faithful to such a mesmerising and spell-binding story.
In a nutshell: The Green Mile is my favourite film. It is profound, disturbing, charming, engaging, sad, and funny. These amazing performers bring the characters of King’s novel to life; characters as small as the little circus mouse, Mr. Jingles, to as big as John Coffey himself.
Oh, my favourite part of my favourite film is very, very hard to choose, but that scene where John is watching his first “flicka show”, Top Hat, is up there because it’s just so charming.
Also, check out this “brief discussion” of the film I had with Joe over at his blog, Two Dude Review. This discussion really does prove it’s a movie that’s difficult to stop talking about!