365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About

8Jul/110

The Green Mile (1999)

The Green Mile was Frank Darabont's (The Mist, The Majestic) first movie following the The Shawshank Redemption, a riveting prison movie which has found a permanent spot on many critic's and movie fan's top ten of all-time lists. The expectations were high for The Green Mile if not altogether unrealistic. Like The Shawshank Redemption, this movie was set almost exclusively in a prison. Like The Shawshank Redemption, this movie was based upon a Stephen King novel. Like The Shawshank Redemption, this movie was set somewhere in middle America fairly close to the time frame of World War I, though neither of these movies ever really talk about any sort of war at all. The Green Mile was set in 1932 while The Shawshank Redemption was set in 1946. I say that the expectations for The Green Mile might have been a bit unrealistic for not just the reasons mentioned above, but also because it starred Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump, Philadelphia), Hollywood's #1 leading man at the time, who was fresh off of receiving his 5th Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor after his performance in Saving Private Ryan. While The Green Mile is not as good as The Shawshank Redemption (my favorite film of all-time), it still is an incredible movie, one which should be seen by everybody at least once in their life.

While many will be turned off by its 3 hour and 7 minute run time, I would strongly encourage anybody to not let this be a factor in their decision to watch the movie. For a movie that has literally no action and set almost entirely in a single prison block, you would think that, regardless of how good it is, it would drag. That is not the case at all. The story pulls you in from the very first scene and doesn't let go of its grip until its emotional ending. Darabont, who also wrote the screenplay for them movie, is a masterful storyteller. The acting is tremendous. The choice of Hanks as the lead was perfect. But most impressive was the performance of relatively new actor Michael Clarke Duncan (Sin City, The Scorpion King). Duncan did have a minor role in the blockbuster Armaggedon, but, for the most part, this was his introduction to moviegoers across the globe. He was terrific as John Coffey, a convicted felon sentenced to death row for the murder of two young girls. His Academy Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor was much deserved. The movie probably would have been very good with a different actor for Coffey. However, Clarke's performance elevated the movie from very, very good to superb.

The green mile is a block of the Cold Mountain Correctional Facility; the mile referring to death row while the green referring to the forest green tiles that line the floor. The head guard of the cell block is Paul Edgecomb (Hanks), a mild mannered, kind-hearted, but firm and fair man who is respected immensely by his loyal fellow guards Brutus (David Morse - Disturbia, The Slaughter Rule) and Dean (Barry Pepper - *61, Flags of Our Fathers) as well as most of the inmates on death row. While the inmates are all convicted murderers, their unique personalities add to the ambiance of death row. Some are what you would expect of someone on death row, that being cold-hearted killers with little or no remorse evoking little if any sympathy from us. But we also get to see the other side of some of the inmates. We get to know them so well that we believe them when they remorsefully tell a guard that if they could take it all back, they would in a second.

John Coffey's arrival to the block changes the lives of many. He is a physical giant, towering over the 6'4" Brutus, with arms that would have made the world's best prize fighter jealous. Understandably Edgecomb and his fellow guards are cautious if not downright fearful of this man. Coffey's facial expressions alone though show all of us that he is clearly more scared than any of the guards should be. He promises no trouble, calls Edgecomb "boss", and asks if it's pretty light in his cell at night because he is scared of the dark. Coffey is a man of mystery too as the guards and fellow inmates soon learn. The person who we first believe him to be might not be that person at all. We need the full 3 hours and 7 minutes to feel this though. Cutting even a minute to shorten this movie would have been a detriment to the story. This is a must see movie.

Plot 8/10
Character Development 10/10
Character Chemistry 10/10
Acting 10/10
Screenplay 9/10
Directing 10/10
Cinematography 10/10
Sound 8/10
Hook and Reel 8.5/10
Universal Relevance 7.5/10
91%

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