The Green Mile, directed by the great and powerful Frank Darabont, is a cinematic adaptation of the Steven King novel of the name same. John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) is a new inmate on The Green Mile (another name given for Death Row) charged with child rape and murder. However, he is also an individual with extraordinary gifts. These gifts are realized by the guards on the Green Mile – Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) & Brutus Howell (David Morse), whose lives are forever changed.
As brilliantly as this film was shot, edited and directed, I have to give some credit to the owner of the source material – Stephen King. I truly believe he is one of the greatest authors of our time due to his ability to concoct unique fantasies and interlace them with fascinating characters. I was also surprised to find out that many of his novels such as The Stand, It, Pet Cemetery, and The Shining were written when he was under the influence of cocaine.
In contrast to the titles mentioned above, The Green Mile felt like more of a grounded story. It was less “noisy” (if that makes any sense). The film has a three hour runtime and certainly packs a punch with the ideas that it discusses – insanity, faith, karma and the efficacy of the death penalty. No matter what perspective you choose to watch this movie from, one thing remains certain – this is an excellently made film. One of the things that made this movie so excellent was it was shot in a contained setting. Almost everything took place within the confines of a single building. As a viewer, I became accustomed to the look and layout of this place – the rusting bars latched onto the jail cells, the fading lime-green floors, and even the antique cherry wooden color of the electric chair.
Let’s talk about the characters. Every character had an ark and purpose that was fulfilled. Two highlights for me were John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) and Wild Bill Wharton (Sam Rockwell), who were both perfectly cast. Coffey was an intimidating figure at first sight with his bulging muscles, but a kind-hearted soul blessed on the inside. Duncan (RIP) captured both of these aspects of the character very well. Wild Wharton also plays a very important role in the plot. He is the most despicable character I have ever seen on screen. I grew to hate him more and more as the film progressed. This was Rockwell’s breakout performance and his finest one to date – he nailed it!
The way this movie was constructed also felt methodical. I mean this in a number of different ways. The soundtrack, composed by Thomas Newman, was soothing and harmonious. It complemented the drama, sorrow and tragedy witnessed on screen. The execution sequences were also paradoxically methodical and chaotic in nature – these sequences were the real attention grabbing moments of the film in my opinion. The dialogue too, was engaging and reinforced the themes mentioned above. Every word uttered carried weight.
In conclusion, The Green Mile is a timeless classic. It was very well put-together, from its soundtrack to its performances to its replication of the environment on Death Row. If I were to critique this movie in one aspect, it would be its length. Watching a movie with a runtime in excess of three hours is a commitment. Maybe particular scenes could have been cut short? Regardless, this is a very minor complaint and does not degrade the quality of this film.