The Green Mile (1999)

the green mile

This is a wonderful film, and not something you’d really expect to see from the cast involved. Tom Hanks is known more for his comedic or drama work, and while The Green Mile is definitely a drama, Hanks has not really been in anything supernatural in nature as this movie is. A solid cast, and a terrific story based on a Stephen King novel, make this a great movie to enjoy.

Hanks plays Paul Edgecomb, he runs a prison ward for people on death row. His life is turned upside down when a new inmate named John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) arrives accused of raping and murdering two young girls. Paul soon realises there is more to this new prisoner than meets the eye, as he has healing powers. Paul has a painful infection cured by Coffey’s abilities, and when the whole ward sees him resurrect a dead mouse, they must decide if they can let one of God’s true miracles be put to death in an electric chair.

This film has a lot of heart. It is a long film (it has a run time of over 3 hours), but never feels like it. Hanks is the perfect person to play this character who is torn by his duty and whether or not he can allow a man like John Coffey to be killed. You feel the conflict in Hanks character, mostly because he plays it so well. My biggest surprise was Michael Clarke Duncan. He was rightly nominated for an Oscar for this role, and The Green Mile remains his best performance, in my opinion. The supporting cast in this movie is also really good. I loved Sam Rockwell as a nutty inmate, he is insane and plays it really well. I also must mention Doug Hutchison’s performance. He plays a worker in the jail, and is a complete jerk. You really hate his character, and are glad when he gets his comeuppance. You wouldn’t hate him so much if Hutchison didn’t give such a good performance.

The Green Mile is an adaptation of a Stephen King novel, and it is one of the best I’ve seen. It follows the book closer than any adaptation I can remember, and is very faithful to the source material. Director Frank Darabont is no stranger to adapting works by Stephen King (he also directed The Shawshank Redemption) and he does a good job here as well. A solid cast and an compelling story make this an entertaining film to watch. It is definitely not for children, but if you like well made films, you can’t go wrong with The Green Mile.

Rating: B

Some actors are just too good at their job. Case in point: Doug Hutchison. To anyone who has seen The Green Mile, you will be very familiar with entitled, sadistic asshole Percy Wetmore. Hutchison was so convincing in the role that every time I saw his face after watching this I heard a chorus of “creep, creep, creep” in my head. Of course, he later became infamous for marrying a 16-year-old, so maybe he’s not so much a great actor as he is an actual creep. Whatever the case, he plays the perfect villain, who thankfully gets what is coming to him in the end, a feature of Stephen King novels/movies that I rather enjoy.

The Green Mile shares a lot of similarities with The Shawshank Redemption, another beloved adaptation of a Stephen King work. Both were directed by Frank Darabont (now well known for his association with The Walking Dead television series), both take place in prisons, both revolve around inmates falsely accused of crimes, and both rely heavily on emotion rather than the horror/fantasy/sci-fi genre that made King famous. Yes, there are supernatural elements in The Green Mile, but they are not the main focus of the story. This is a story that revolves around its characters– the relationships between death row inmates and the guards tasked with watching them.

This is a film that is perfectly cast. Tom Hanks stars as Paul Edgecomb, a prison officer at Cold Mountain Penitentiary in Louisiana who oversees death row, known to everyone there as “The Green Mile.” This character is Hanks doing what he does best, playing a likable and empathetic man who does his best to bring dignity to the prisoners during their last few weeks on earth. Hanks is ably supported by Michael Clarke Duncan, who plays the Mile’s newest inmate, John Coffey. Coffey is a quiet, shy man who seems incapable of committing the horrible crime for which is has been sentenced to death. Both men play off each other well and give what are perhaps the performances of their careers. The rest of the cast also deliver suburb performances that incite a list of varying emotions from the audience. However, they are only able to do this thanks to the 3+ hour run time. Normally I’d baulk at a movie that is so long, but in this case it is absolutely needed to get the full scope of the story and to develop the characters. Thankfully the film never feels tedious, and there aren’t any scenes that feel like they should have been cut. This is quite simply and really well done movie.

Still, I can’t help but compare The Green Mile to The Shawshank Redemption, which I prefer. My main qualm with Mile is that the characters are almost always entirely good or entirely bad. I really loved the gray areas explored in Redemption, and would have liked more of that here.

Rating: B+

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