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Bring your kleenex!
Apr 21, 2000 (Updated Apr 21, 2000)
Review by George Chabot
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Duncan, Hanks, Direction, Cinematography, Script
Cons:None. Well, OK, the special effects are unnecessary as the story is compelling without them.
The Green Mile (1999)
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Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) is the chief guard in Louisiana State Prisonís death row. Part of his job is to supervise the executions of the prisoners waiting to walk "the last mile", in this case called the "green mile" because of the lime green tiles that cover the floor.
Edgecomb is a surprisingly calm and humane custodian of his charges, maintaining a climate like an intensive care unit in a hospital on "the mile". Well, all except junior guard "Percy Wetmore", (Doug Hutchison) who is a thoroughly bad guy, whacking fingers that stick through the bars with his billy club, cursing and taunting the prisoners, and generally trying to upset the tranquility of Edgecombís world. Edgecombís world is pretty upset already, since he has a bladder infection that causes him excruciating pain whenever he tries to urinate. Percy, by the way, has connections at the state house and threatens to use them, therefore, he remains untouchable, at least for the moment.
Enter "John Coffey", "Like the drink, suh, only spelled different." Coffey, a gigantic black man, is first seen holding the bodies of two slaughtered white children and wailing like a child himself. Obviously, in 1935 Louisiana he was convicted of rape and murder and sentenced to be executed in "Olí Sparky", the stateís method of reuniting condemned men with their Maker.
The other guards form an incredibly cohesive team behind Edgecomb, and are brought to life with great performances by the supporting cast, including David Morse, Jeffrey DeMunn, and Barry Pepper (a holdover from "Saving Private Ryan", where he portrayed the sniper). I was struck by the resemblance between Pepper and what I would imagine a young Kirk Douglas would look like.
John Coffey, (Michael Clarke Duncan in a performance of a lifetime) is a simple, countrified black man, characterized by gentleness in spite of his Herculean size and physique. Coffey is a bit slow and unsophisticated. When asked if he can spell, he says "my name". "Go ahead", replies Edgecomb. "J . . . . O . . . ."
This lack of language skills, and later developments explain why he said "I tried to take it back, but it was too late" when he was apprehended with the bodies of the murdered children.
John Coffey, in his own simple words, has the power to "take back" pain. He can even raise the dead on occasion. He proves this to Edgecomb by "taking away" his bladder infection. The relief on Edgecombís face, as he relieves himself for the first time without pain, is amusing.
The other prisoners are well played also, by Graham Greene, Sam Rockwell, and Michael Jeter. Jeter plays a Cajun who trains a mouse to do tricks, which adds a lot of color and emotional release to the story. Rockwell, as the manic "Billy the Kid" aka "Wild Bill", plays a lunatic who is so evil he makes Percy look pretty good by comparison. In fact, he gets his hands on Percy through the bars and molests him, which leaves Percy quite shaken.
The rest of the opinions have done a good job of going over the story so Iíll skip the rest, except to say there are executions, and fights, and healings, and wonder.
Coffey is a Christ-like savior, who decides to go to the electric chair rather than take the escape that Edgecomb, by now a believer, offers to arrange. Before he does, he "gives part of himself" to Edgecomb.
He also passes on the evil that he had taken from the wardenís diseased wife to Percy, who thereupon assassinates Wild Bill and goes insane, only to end his days in the state mental hospital -- ironically, where he was planning to transfer as guard to get off "the mile"!
"The Green Mile" is well- made movie, which at about three hours running time develops its characters and story in depth, so it does not seem long. The continuity and flow of the story are admirable and the characters sympathetic. The viewer is required to suspend his disbelief, but to me, that is what entertainment is all about!
Anyone should see this movie, as it is sure to become a classic of the prison genre. Four stars.
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