At this time of year, the industry is pushing films so that they make it out by the last day of the last month in hopes that they will be Oscar contenders in their category for the year. The Green Mile need not be so concerned with this. Let me tell you, Oscar talk aside, this is one damn good movie.
Based on the novel by Stephen King, The Green Mile is a brutal depiction of life on death row. Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan) plays Paul Edgecomb, a head prison guard whose hard-nosed fairness and compassion for mankind takes its toll on his soul when a new inmate is placed on his cell block. Tenderly played by Michael Clarke Duncan (Armageddon), John Coffey is a giant, and I mean giant, teddy bear. He’s convicted of committing one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, yet, guilty or not, it’s virtually impossible to not feel some sort of compassion for him. His puppy-dog eyes and child-like manner is heartbreaking, especially when we are forced to see him as a callous murderer.
The Green Mile is an excellent story in itself, and when transferred to screen with an exceptional cast, its impact becomes even more powerful. Actually seeing the character John Coffey struggle with who he is and what he knows about life and human nature is an emotional and eye-opening experience. Credit must be given to director Frank Darabont, whose past credits include The Shawshank Redemption and The Woman in the Room, which are both adaptations from stories by Stephen King. His ability to bring these great stories to life, and do it in such a realistic and beautiful way, is pure talent and gets better each time.
I have to say that Tom Hanks once again pulls off a remarkable performance, but it’s the supporting cast that truly makes this film what it is. Michael Jeter (The Fisher King) plays the role of Del with such conviction, I found myself questioning my own beliefs on the death penalty. Doug Hutchison (A Time to Kill) is ruthless as the prison guard, Percy, and, what’s more, I found myself despising him more than I did the supposedly heartless criminals who were under his watch. And I can’t forget Sam Rockwell (Lawn Dogs ) as Wild Bill Wharton. His manipulative manner and pure evilness are the film’s reminder of why we do have capital punishment.
Though the film is clocked at over three hours running time, every minute is well worth it. In that time frame, everything you believed and thought true will be questioned, and some brutal realities about life and human nature will be revealed. The Green Mile is so much more than another Stephen King story and prison movie. It speaks volumes on humanity; this deep subject matter combined with supernatural overtones is more hauntingly real than one might hope for. My guess is that The Green Mile will make it to the Oscars. And even if it doesn’t, it’s still one of the year’s best. It will remain in my memory for a very long time.
+ Ashley Adams