Not that long movies have never been successful, and not that The Green Mile is bad. You might even think a long movie is required here. Pulled from Stephen King's acclaimed series of six books by the same name, King returns to the kind of work he was doing in The Shawshank Redemption (based on a short story of his), the kind that seems to perform the best, away from splatter and gore, and into the minds of the strangest of characters.
The resemblance to Shawshank is uncanny. Both are epic prison films that ultimately tell stories of personal growth and enlightenment. But The Green Mile isn't about the prisoners, it's about the guards -- and one, notable prisoner that crosses their paths. Leading the crew of the 1935 southern prison is guard Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks), a kind man who treats his death row inmates with all the dignity he can. His latest charge is John Coffey (Michael Duncan), a gentle giant with alarming powers of the spirit who was convicted of killing two little girls.
Before it's time for Coffey to walk The Green Mile (the road to "Old Sparky," the electric chair), he has a profound effect upon the other guards and inmates. And Paul is the centerpiece. Mr. Jingles, the prison's mouse, takes second billing. The light bulbs, which explode more dramatically and more often than in any other film in history, take third.
There's plenty here to make you laugh and cry, and director Frank Darabont (who also did Shawshank) knows how to tug each string. Surprisingly, it's Hanks who is forgettable in his role, mainly because his phony southern accent wavers unconvincingly between those used in his parts in Forrest Gump and Saving Private Ryan. Duncan is the one to watch here, and I'll put money on him right now for an Oscar nod.
Sadly, the legacy of Titanic has told directors that pacing is irrelevant and a film's length can be boundless. The Green Mile even bookends with Paul's character as an old man, looking back on his life -- sound familiar? But unlike Titanic, you really feel the length in this film, and it's just not necessary this time around. I checked my watch close to a dozen times during the film during the draggy parts -- a bad sign for those prone to sore butts.
But maybe Darabont did this on purpose. Sitting there, glued to my seat, entranced by thoughts of what might happen next yet slowly rotting while life passes me by outside... my, it feels just like I'm in prison, waiting for my own trip down The Green Mile.
Hanks: You've got an execution!
Run time: 189 mins
In Theaters: Friday 10th December 1999
Box Office Worldwide: $284.6M
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production compaines: Castle Rock Entertainment, Darkwoods Productions, Warner Bros.
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 105 Rotten: 27
IMDB: 8.5 / 10
Director: Frank Darabont
Screenwriter: Frank Darabont
Starring: Tom Hanks as Paul Edgecomb, Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey, David Morse as Brutus "Brutal" Howell, Bonnie Hunt as Jan Edgecomb, James Cromwell as Warden Hal Moores, Patricia Clarkson as Melinda Moores, Michael Jeter as Eduard Delacroix, Sam Rockwell as 'Wild Bill' Wharton, Graham Greene as Arlen Bitterbuck, Doug Hutchison as Percy Wetmore, Barry Pepper as Dean Stanton, Jeffrey DeMunn as Harry Terwilliger, Harry Dean Stanton as Toot-Toot, Gary Sinise as Lawyer Burt Hammersmith, Dabbs Greer as Old Paul Edgecomb, Eve Brent as Elaine Connelly
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