Movie Review By Heather Clisby
From the director who brought us "The Shawshank Redemption," Frank Darabont, "The Green Mile" is another unusual prison film that finds beauty in an otherwise ugly world of pain and confinement.
Based on the novel by Stephen King, it's the story of magic happening in the most unlikely place, Death Row of the Cold Mountain Penitentiary in Louisiana, 1935. Tom Hanks stars as Paul Edgecomb, the head guard along, what is nicknamed, The Green Mile. He is stoic, virtuous, loves his wife and always does The Right Thing. (Doesn't he ever get tired of these roles?)
Paul and his crew are the embodiment of humanist philosophy: treat people with respect and you won't have any trouble with them. An example is given when Paul and his right hand man, Brutus Howell, played by strong silent type, David Morse, watch a mouse scurry into the padded Restraining Room. When the door is opened, we see that the room is filled with junk and has become a storage space - no restraining necessary here. Furthermore, the mouse becomes Mr. Jangles, a performing circus rodent and the best friend of inmate Del Delacroix, played with splendid precision by Michael Jeter.
The story begins when John Coffey arrives - the convicted murderer of two young girls, Coffey is the largest, darkest man you will ever see. Made entirely of muscle and heart, he is seven feet, 330-pounds of life and love. The fact that he cries easily, is afraid of the dark and is exceptionally polite, doesn't jibe with his reputation. In fact, it's downright suspicious.
In his first starring role, Michael Clarke Duncan, is Coffey and either because of his size or in spite of it, when the guy exudes, it's powerfully effective. Eventually, Coffey exhibits supernatural powers and the faces of good and bad become painfully obvious.
Evil comes in a twin pack: Percy Wetmore, played with pouting viciousness by Doug Hutchison, is the well-connected guard with a twisted taste for blood; Sam Rockwell is Wild Bill, a convicted murderer with a yen for explosive displays of violence. Together, there is plenty to hate.
In a small but hilarious role as Toot-Toot, the prison janitor, Harry Dean Stanton just shines. He is their stand-in for the execution rehearsals and his commentaries through the walk-throughs are priceless.
I think this three-hour film was reaching for Epicville when it should've made a quick stop in the editing room for some tightening. Overall, "The Green Mile" is a heart-warming story but drawn in very few gray lines. Also, one scene showing an execution gone bad may make you rethink the death penalty. From the Master of Monsters, Stephen King, comes hope. Who knew?
© 1999 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 12/8/99
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