The Green Mile (1999)

The Green Mile (1999)
  • Time: 189 min
  • Genre: Crime | Drama | Fantasy
  • Director: Frank Darabont
  • Cast: Tom Hanks, David Morse, Michael Clarke Duncan, Sam Rockwell


A supernatural tale set on death row in a Southern prison, where gentle giant John Coffey possesses the mysterious power to heal people’s ailments. When the cellblock’s head guard, Paul Edgecomb, recognizes Coffey’s miraculous gift, he tries desperately to help stave off the condemned man’s execution.


  • I think “The Green Mile” is one of the best movies I have ever seen! The story is riveting, and brings a Stephen King novel to life like many others have failed to do. I felt genuinley sad for the characters. The complete cast in this stunning drama is brilliant, especially Tom Hanks, his colleagues and the death row inmates. The most stunning roles of all is played by Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey, not speaking or moving much, but with an instant expression of pain and suffering on his face that won’t let you untouched. The whole atmosphere, especially in the Green Mile settings and the execution chamber, are touching, depressing and fascinating at the same time. Make sure you have 3 hours to dedicate to watching this masterpiece. It is worth every second of your time and will leave you with images and emotions for a long time after the tape has finished!!

  • Five years after The Shawshank Redemption (1994), one of the great films of the ‘90s, writer-director Frank Darabont fashions another top-notch film in The Green Mile. Only his second feature, Darabont adapts Stephen King’s novel of the same name into a near-brilliant drama of hope and suffering, love and hate, and most resonant of all, of the belief in faith and miracles. The French director’s love affair with King’s works continues into the next decade, directing The Mist (2007), another drama based on faith but ‘disguised’ as a horror picture.

    Darabont’s preoccupation with beliefs and faith runs deep in his films. But it is in The Green Mile which it is most strongly felt. Without giving most of the plot away (for those who have not read the novel or seen the picture), The Green Mile tells the quite incredible story of John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), a murderer sent to the Cold Mountain Penitentiary to await execution. There he meets Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) who supervises the executions, and takes care of the welfare of death row inmates with his team of guards. Coffey is a huge black man, but his simple-mindedness bring an aura of spirit and humanity to the place. Yet it is his ability to create miracles that most fascinates Edgecomb.

    Clarke Duncan’s performance outshines a stellar cast including David Morse, and James Cromwell, and is rewarded with an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He captures the child-like innocence of Coffey with immaculate skill, and earns our empathy through his display of raw emotionality. For once, Hanks takes a step back into the shadow of this gentle giant, and quite rightly so because this is a film about Coffey and not Edgecomb. The characterizations of each major character in the film are superb; this is not surprising as Darabont has always been admired for his skilled writing.

    Darabont is a filmmaker many critics are unable to identify with; he is neither celebrated as an auteur nor does he express a unique (or even visible) style of directing which potentially marks him out as one. In a sense, he is like Ron Howard (Apollo 13, 1995; A Beautiful Mind, 2001), the Oscar-winning director who “turns out well-made genre films that have wide audience appeal, yet (with) no real personal signature.” (Bergan). Yet Darabont continues to make exceptional pictures, with each single effort, apart from The Majestic (2001), consistently getting a high score from me.

    The Green Mile is well-produced, and despite the director’s by-the-rulebook approach to making films which translates into more orthodox (and less creative) cinematography and editing, the film very much hinges its success upon Darabont’s mastery of the narrative medium. It is this which pulls us through the film’s weaker portions which happens to be, ironically, parts when the lively Mr. Jingles, a clever mouse, appears on screen. The tone of The Green Mile is curiously light-hearted, though its mix of horror and fantasy seem to play awkwardly on the viewer, if not emotionally, then visually.

    The Green Mile is an excellent film in its own right. But such is its curse that The Shawshank Redemption came before it. Inevitable comparisons will be made, and the latter will always be considered ‘superior’. Hell, even The Mist is a more accomplished film than The Green Mile with its scathing social commentary and religious overtones. But if I may add, The Green Mile is thus far the only Darabont film that has made me tear up. “The green mile seems so long”, says Edgecomb in his final line in the film. Yes it is. Running more than three hours, it is a massive film length-wise. But inspirational-wise, it has few peers.

    GRADE: A- (8.5/10 or 4 stars)
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  • In 1935, Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) was the Death Row head guard in the E block of the Cold Mountain Penitentiary. A married man with two grown kids, he supervises the executions of the inmates and works alongside Brutus Howell (David Morse), Dean Stanton (Barry Pepper), Harry Terwilliger (Jeffrey DeMunn), and the particularly sadistic but well-connected Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison).

    In the summer of an especially discomfiting urinary tract infection, Paul encounters John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan). Coffey is no ordinary prisoner, you see. Though his seven-foot stature and hulking build lend credence to his crime of raping and murdering two little blonde girls, his gentleness negates that image. Beyond that, Coffey possesses a most unusual power – the power, it seems, to heal and restore. Paul first witnesses Coffey’s powers when Coffey grabs him by the crotch – the prison bulbs brighten, a strange glow occurs — and when Coffey lets go of Paul, he coughs out a hail of dust particles. When Paul asks what he did, Coffey replies, “I just took it back.”

    Coffey, unlike the other inmates, may actually be innocent. The girls’ father (an effective Willam Sadler) and his hunting party found Coffey on the ground, the two little girls, lifeless and their hair matted with blood, on either side of him. Coffey was wailing and said, “I couldn’t help it. I tried to take it back but it was too late.” Whatever happens, it will always be too late for Coffey and for a black man who has forever been on the run, perhaps being too late is the only way out.

    Clarke Duncan, a former bouncer who last appeared in Armageddon, resembles a walking boulder – the immensity of his bulk is undoubtedly impressive, especially when in proximity to the other actors. Clarke Duncan nails the tenderness from the moment the camera settles on his face. “Do you leave the light on after bedtime?” he asks Paul. Because Coffey is scared of the dark, especially if it’s a strange place. By film’s end, audiences should mirror the onscreen guards with their love and admiration for this gentle giant.

    Coffey is not the only inmate of note in the E block. There is a brief and seemingly unnecessary appearance by Graham Greene as a Native American convict who is the first to die in Old Sparky, the electric chair. Then there are Del (Michael Jeter), who has adopted the house mouse, Mr. Jingles, and William “Wild Bill” Wharton (Sam Rockwell), a wholly unpredictable killer who takes delight in pushing the buttons of the guards and his fellow prisoners. Both engage in a power struggle with Percy, who enjoys wielding his position though not always to his benefit. As played by Hutchison, Percy is a villain who is mean because of his own inferiority. With his connections behind him, he feels he can do no wrong. Or rather, he can do all the wrong he wants but never pay the consequences. One of the film’s most horrifying passages involves Percy’s deliberate sabotaging of an execution so that more pain will be inflicted upon the inmate. When he smells the flesh burning and sees the suffering, Percy knows he’s gone too far but his reflex to cover his misstep is stronger than his need for penance.

    Frank Darabont, who adapted and directed a superb cinematic mounting of Stephen King’s The Shawshank Redemption, breathes beautiful life into King’s The Green Mile, which was originally published in six installments. As with The Shawshank Redemption, he translates the mystical realism of King’s tale without sacrificing the psychological horror or wit. Even more impressive in my book is the performance he’s coaxed out of Hanks. There is no doubt that Hanks is one of our finest actors today but I’ve often bristled at the overall effect of his performances. His iconic status has hallowed his portrayals – it’s as if he can’t do anything but show the “amber waves of grain” side of America. Yet here, more so than in Saving Private Ryan, the flaws allowed in his character are carried with humanity. The humanity is not the type to be revered but empathized with, sometimes to be laughed at. A scene like Paul finally taking a painless piss is made poetic by the look on Hanks’ face.

    Hanks, along with his fellow actors, demonstrate that it is in man’s ability to inflict various degrees of cruelty and that a man need not be a prisoner to be capable of the most unspeakable malice.

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