Paul Edgecomb didn't believe in miracles. Until the day he met one. THE GREEN MILE
Dec 7, 2009 (Updated Dec 7, 2009)
Review by Mark Vaughan
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Complex plot, moving story, great acting, thoughtful message.
Cons:Evil orderly subplot from later days dropped.
The Bottom Line: This movie is an enduring classic, deep and moving, and layered; perfect fodder for discussion. One of King's best books becomes one of his few good movies.
The Green Mile (1999) Directed by Frank Darabont From the Novel by Stephen King.
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"That boy's cheese done slid off his cracker."
Stephen King is a phenomenon. A tremendously talented author, his books are frequently turned into cinematic schlock. However, there seems to be one director who gets King, Darabont, who is responsible for three of the best King adaptations; The Mist, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile.
The Green Mile was originally published as a Chapter Book, a Novel in Six parts, published a month apart. I vividly recall waiting with breathless anticipation for the next batch. It was addictive.
The title is drawn from the setting, the death row of a Louisiana prison. Usually called the Last Mile, this institution had the Green Mile, because the linoleum was the colour of faded limes. The man in charge of the Green Mile in 1935 was Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks). He is a good man, and he runs the Mile with an even hand and an enlightened attitude. In 1935, he had two pains; a raging urinary tract infection, and the other, a bit further back, named Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison). Paul described him this way, "The man is mean, careless, and stupid. Bad combination in a place like this." But Percy's Aunt is the Governor's wife. Percy's real ambition is to work at Briar Ridge Mental Hospital. But first, he wants to see someone fry.
Then there is something new on the Mile. John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) is a new prisoner, convicted of raping and killing two little white girls. Coffey is huge, towering over even Brutus "Brutal" Howell (David Morse) the largest of the guards. But as huge and massive as Coffey is, he is gentle as a lamb, and child like. "Do you leave a light on after bedtime? Because I get a little scared in the dark sometimes."
But John Coffey is more than simple, more than large. When he sees Paul in pain, he grabs the afflicted area, and somehow, draws the infection out of Paul. John is a miracle, and the more the men on the mile learn about him, the harder it is to believe there is an malice in him, much less the ability to kill little girls.
Another man awaiting his appointment to ride the lighting is Eduard Delacroix. Del has a pet, Mr. Jingles, a rather talented little mouse. Whether Del trained Mr. Jingles, or Mr. Jingles trained Del is open to debate, but the fact the little animal charmed the Mile is not. All except Percy. But even his mean spirited viciousness is no match for whatever gifts John Coffey possesses.
The Green Mile is a tale about truth, and redemption. About the way life sometimes conspires to be unfair, but how rarely, serendipity can serve justice as well. It is a story about the value of dignity, and integrity. And it is about facing the inevitable; how we meet our death as a measure of the life that is ending.
It is not your standard King fare; more spiritual than supernatural. And Darabont takes the time to do it right. Just over three hours, it doesn't hurry, but simmers until perfect. Part of the credit for this of course belongs with the actors. Tom Hanks as the everyman Paul Edgecomb hits the delicate balance of personality and subdued competence that prevents him being boring while not making the tale revolve around him. Doug Hutchinson manages a similar feat, making Percy loathsome without making him a caricature. And best of all, Michael Clarke Duncan as the child like John Coffey. There is innocence and a forlorn quality to Coffey that is vital to the piece working, and Duncan brings the big man to life.
Hope, justice, forgiveness, dignity in the face of death. This is powerful stuff folks.
"We each owe a death - there are no exceptions - but sometimes, oh God, the Green Mile seems so long." Paul Edgecomb, age 108.
This review, like Percy Wetmore, is Lean-N-Mean. Designed to promote conciseness, this one is 666 words exactly.
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