The Green Mile


Directed by: Frank Darabont
Written by:Frank Darabont
Starring: Tom Hanks, David Morse, Bonnie Hunt, Michael Clarke Duncan, James Cromwell, Sam Rockwell, Harry Dean Stanton
Released: February 10, 2000
Grade: B

Director Frank Darabont went into reclusion after his first feature debut, The Shawshank Redemption, earned 7 Academy Award nominations in 1994 (although it went home empty handed).  Darabont was patient. Flooded with scripts and potential projects, in wasn’t until he read The Green Mile, that he returned to the director’s chair for a second time.

It’s easy to see why Darabont was attracted to the project.  Like Shawshank, it was based on a Stephen King novel, is set in a prison and is a story of hope.  Whilst Shawshank was an unanticipated sleeper, The Green Mile never had that luxury and has been touted as a big release for some time, perhaps to its disadvantage.

We are introduced to our leading character, Paul Edgecomb (Hanks) at a retirement home and it is from there that he reflects on the summer of 1935.  Whilst head of E-Block on the infamous “Green Mile” (where prisoners on death row sit out their last days), a new inmate arrives by the name of John Coffey (Duncan).  A man of gigantic proportions, Coffey is awaiting his date with the “chair” after being convicted of raping and murdering two young girls.

There was something different about Coffey.  He was always quiet, afraid and distant from his surroundings.  Paul had seen many walk the Mile, but had never seen a man convicted of such a heinous crime exhibit such behaviour.  Yes, there was something special about John Coffey, and every memory from every moment of his stay on the Green Mile would remain with Paul Edgecomb for the rest of his long life.

Prepare yourself for the heavy Southern accents as Tom Hanks and the rest of the cast pour them on.  Tom Hanks is wonderful in his role and is supported by a renowned cast including David Morse and James Cromwell.  As good as they are, their portrayal in the film is poor - the dialogue forces the characters to overplay their roles when it wasn’t at all required.  Percy (played by Doug Hutchinson) is a prime example.  Darabont seems to focus on the story at the expense of the characters (the opposite of King’s great book) and the movie suffers accordingly.

This is connected with the film’s major flaw - it’s length.  When you’ve got a bunch of characters that aren’t all that interesting, delivering dialogue as if it’s been read out of book, no film is going to hold your attention for three hours and ten minutes.  Honestly, the film could have been told in less than two hours and been better for it.  Darabont obsession with keeping strictly to the novel and leaving little to waste was a bad error in judgement.

To use an interesting story, when I saw the film for the first time two reels were played out of order. As such, there was a segment in the film where roughly twenty minutes was omitted and the audience was none the wiser.  It showed just how much of the film really was unnecessary.

Although I may seem harshly negative, the film has redeeming qualities exemplified by the cast but after three hours, their appeal wears then and what’s left could only be described as nothing more than “run-off-the-mill”.