The Green Mile

“The Green Mile” Review


Tom Hanks……………………..Paul Edgecomb
Michael Clarke Duncan.…….John Coffey
David Morse……………………Brutus Howell


Director…………………………Frank Darabont
Producers………………………Frank Darabont, David Valdes
Writers………………………….Stephen King (novel), Frank Darabont (screenplay)

Stephen King and Frank Darabont make a pretty decent combination, don’t you think? The former provides the idea on paper, the latter executes it flawlessly on the silver screen. We saw just how good ‘Shawshank’ turned out to be, and “The Green Mile” is another testament to great filmmaking.

Our protagonist is Paul Edgecomb (Hanks), who is the ward supervisor of Death Row at Lousiana Cold Mountain Penitentiary. Along with him are three other Death Row guards, played by David Morse, Barry Pepper, and Jeffrey DeMunn. The film follows these four as they go about their duties at Death Row, until one day, a new inmate arrives at the penitentiary. He is a huge black man named John Coffey, and is in for raping and murdering two young girls. You’d think it’s tough to sympathize with someone like that.

And yet, from the moment Coffey enters the ward, we see there is something not right. He may be massive, but he is an incredibly soft-spoken man, and he’s afraid of the dark too. As we go along with the movie, we learn more and more about John, the guards, and the other inmates. The story takes a supernatural turn about halfway through, but it is more of a spiritual supernatural, not a haunting kind (as we are accustomed to in Stephen King books).

Both “Shawshank” and “The Green Mile” are prison stories, but they are very different stories. “Shawshank” itself was not a regular prison movie, and neither is this film. And Darabont takes his time to show us this. In fact, the total runtime of this movie is just over 3 hours, which is quite a lot longer than most movies today. And like “Shawshank”, “The Green Mile” – which gets its name from the lime green flooring from the jail cells to the execution hall – is deliberate and slow, taking time to
establish an environment. In fact, he takes over an hour to show us the world, and to help us get to know everybody, be it the fair and just Warden, or Paul’s kind and supportive wife. Darabont is in no hurry to get to the ‘exciting’ stuff, and this is one thing that makes this film so good. If the movie was an hour shorter, I’m sure everything would feel much more contrived, and this movie would not be close to as good as it is now.

The character development in the film is absolutely fantastic, especially because of the longer runtime. Each character is given enough time to establish a connection with the audience, and make us feel for them, and make us feel like we are right there with them. The ever-impressive Barry Pepper pulls of his character remarkably well, showing us a kind, gentle, and sympathetic guard. Sam Rockwell did a fantastic job as the aptly nicknamed Wild Bill, an inmate on Death Row; he did very well as a
violent and manipulative convict. However, of the secondary characters, I think David Morse steals the show as a dependable and rock-solid guard, while also showing us that the hardest of men are vulnerable too.

But the movie really rides on the relationship between Hanks’ character Paul, and towering John Coffey, played by, yes, Michael Clarke Duncan. The connection these two share is what makes the film so great. Paul is sympathetic, and is completely committed to his job, which is why he wants to the best he can for Coffey. I will not give away what the supernatural aspect of the film is, but I will say that it is the crux of this relationship, and ultimately, is the crux of the entire movie.

This film, essentially, is about morality and ethics. When does doing your job stop being a duty and start becoming just plain wrong? It’s a question that probably cropped up in Paul Edgecomb’s mind several times, and, I’m sure, in the audience’s minds too. This movie will have you doing some soul-searching after the gut-wrenching finale.

It’s not every day that you see a movie matching up to the book it has been adapted from. But Frank Darabont manages to make an already excellent book into an even better movie. And this is not something easy to do. The acting and character development is first-rate here, as is the writing, which has not just drama, but some comedy too. If you’re looking for a lot of action, then you’re watching the wrong movie. “The Green Mile” doesn’t revolve around action, but more on the relationships between the characters, and the emotions that they bring out of the audience. Nevertheless, I recommend this movie to one and all, as it really is a very good and
thought-provoking film.