Some films are so well heralded that any sort of introduction or explanation seems redundant. For the longest time, I felt as though The Green Mile, a 1999 project directed by Frank Darabont and based on a Stephen King short story, was such a film. But upon a quick straw poll of my educational peers, it turned out that less than half had even seen the film, and even fewer knew it was originally based on a Stephen King story. If it sounds familiar to some of you, these two paired five years prior for a little movie called The Shawshank Redemption. So, strap in and prepare for a review of one of the best, (albeit longest) films of all time.
I took this one in for the second time on Spike TV this Friday. One advantage was that I was able to get up to feed myself during commercial breaks, however, they were so frequent it really spoiled some very good parts of the film and stretched its three hour runtime into a time slot of four and a half. If you’re going to watch this one on TV, it’s going to be a marathon. But in this particular case, like the lazy river, it is most certainly worth the extended ride.
The story is set in 1930’s Louisiana at the site of death row for a group of inmates nearing the electric chair. At this time, electric shocks were considered the most humane form of execution, somewhere between the time of hanging and lethal injections. I don’t know if King intended to make some sort of statement about the death penalty, or if he simply felt it was the good setting for a story, but either way, seeing this film for the first time five years ago made me think very seriously about the issue in a way that I hadn’t before.
I don’t expect you to agree with me, but lets be honest, this isn’t a humane treatment for anyone.
It isn’t a horror story, but it isn’t exactly a feel-good ride for the whole family, either. Its more of a ponderous take on the nature of the world, mixed with the sort of emotions and moral considerations that go along with being condemned to death. Tom Hanks plays one of his more memorable roles as the front man for the executions, having to watch professionally and calmly as men are electrocuted to death in front of him. Their particular block is known as The Green Mile, a reference to the lime green floor tiles that comprise each condemned man’s final walk to the chair. One might immediately ask what kind of person such a job attracts, but Hanks as well as most of the other officers are fairly normal. Inevitably, one of the workers, Percy Wetmore (Played by Doug Hutchinson), is a sadistic prick who enjoys watching men executed. He’s one of the less relatable characters in the film.
The story turns when a monster of a man, John Coffey (Of course, played by Michael Clarke Duncan,) is walked into The Green Mile. He appears innocent, perhaps even mentally handicapped, but the guards are wary of his story; the convicted rape and murder of two young girls.
Over the following weeks, as Hanks forges a relationship with John Coffey, it is revealed that Coffey is the remarkable host of a variety of supernatural abilities, though the way in which they are portrayed is a gritty and realistic one. This isn’t a superhero movie, nor is it one in which the protagonist breaks free of his prison chains, heals the world and becomes a celebrity. Rather, what transpired over the next three hours is the perfect mix of King fiction; a series of unbelievable events wrapped in a very real and believable package.
My personal favorite aspect of the film was the ability to have a good 90% of the story in one room; the Green Mile, without it ever becoming boring or tedious. It might not hold the attention of young children, but most adults should not only enjoy the experience, but want to watch it and share it with others. The only reason I hadn’t mentioned this film more often in my life is because for the longest time I assumed everyone had seen it. Upon my realization that this was not the case, I plan on spreading this work of art around as much as possible. This film, like The Shawshank Redemption, is so difficult to review solely on the basis that it is dang near perfect as a whole part. The best advice I can give is that if you haven’t seen it, just watch the doggarn thing.