The Green Mile (1999)

DVD Cover (Warner Brother Special Edition)
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Overall Rating 85%
Overall Rating
Ranked #38
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Death Row guards at a penitentiary, in the 1930's, have a moral dilemma with their job when they discover one of their prisoners, a convicted murderer, has a special gift. --IMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: March 7, 2005
Taking place in the year 1935 at the death row portion of the Cold Mountain Correctional Facility in Louisiana, our feature film finds head guard Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) welcoming in a new death row inmate. The man that shows up in the back of the paddy wagon, however, is quite the rare specimen. John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), a man convicted of the murder of two young girls, is the fellow that is to await his execution on The Green Mile (so named due to the dark green linoleum that tiles the floor). The man is huge, towering over everyone that stands next to him, so of course, everyone is a bit nervous when he is led through the prison door. However, Paul soon finds out that he is a gentle giant of sorts... he has the mind of a child, and doesn't seem to be the type that would hurt anyone, much less murder two children.

Also thrown into the mix is a good number of subplots involving our main characters and a few others that pop up as the movie progresses. Paul is suffering from a bladder infection, which his wife Jan (Bonnie Hunt) insists that he get checked out by the doctor. Paul, being the manly man that he is, refuses to do so. He also has to deal with the governor's relative Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison), an asshole of a man who decided to take a job as a prison guard and make the other guards professional lives miserable thanks to his careless attitude towards the prisoners and his incessant name-dropping of his family and connections. Warden Hal Moores (James Cromwell), a friend of Paul's, confides in him that his wife Melinda (Patricia Clarkson) is dying of a brain tumor. The men on death row await their executions... Eduard "Del" Delacroix (Michael Jeter), Arlen Bitterbuck (Graham Greene), and William "Wild Bill" Wharton (Sam Rockwell). Each of these details of the film ends up coming together in the end, and each is influenced by the hulking John Coffey. See, Coffey isn't an ordinary man by any means, not even figuring in his stature. The man has God-given powers to heal with his hands, yet he's been sentenced to death. How can Paul carry out an execution on a man who so obviously has these God-given powers and still look himself in the mirror the next day?

In 1994, director Frank Darabont released his version of a Stephen King novel that dealt with jail life and the inmates involved. That movie was The Shawshank Redemption, a classic of a film if there ever was one. In 1999, Frank decided to try the formula again. Another Stephen King novel is used as the inspiration here, and it's another novel dealing with jail life and the inmates (and guards) involved. To be honest, both of these films are nearly impossible to accurately describe to someone who hasn't seen them; you could sum it up as "it's about some guys in jail", but that wouldn't even come close to doing them justice. There's just too many subplots involved, and too much that has to be seen (or read) instead of summed up in a nice introduction. Now then, if you enjoyed Shawshank, you would most likely enjoy this one as well... however, don't expect the same general story, or you will be sorely disappointed. While Shawshank dealt with how the inmates dealt with prison life and was generally a movie with a happy outcome, this one is nearly the opposite. The main gist of the storyline deals with the religious powers that were bestowed upon John, and how he uses those powers even while locked up on death row. The feel of this movie is also a bit darker than Shawshank, as the continual triumph of Andy in that film is nowhere to be found here. The men on death row that you, the viewer, end up connecting with are executed in the electric chair in loving view of the camera. There's no day at the beach for these fellows, as regardless as to how much sorrow or remorse they have for the crimes they committed, they have their sentences carried out to the letter.

While the storyline that this movie presents is excellent enough on its own, it's only made that much better by the stellar cast involved. Say what you want about the man, but Tom Hanks is a damned fine actor, and his lead role in this film is no exception to the rule. The emotions he feels as he's forced by the law of the land to carry out the executions on the inmates feels genuine to the viewer, and the character he portrays feels authentic. Not many actors can pull off the performance that he did here, so how the man manages to pull off these roles consistently is beyond me. If you were a fan of his outstanding performances in Cast Away or Forrest Gump, then you'll already know what to expect from him in this role. However, he wasn't the only person to pull out an outstanding performance here, no sir. Michael Clarke Duncan (John Coffey) almost does an amazing job as the gentle giant character, and brings forth many emotional scenes with his line-delivery and character portrayal. While I certainly didn't expect much from him due to his massive body-size (c'mon, how many jacked-up men have you seen that can act?), he sure managed to give this reviewer a refreshing surprise. Doug Hutchison (Percy) is also excellent here, which seems to be the recurring theme among the actors, as you may have noticed thus far in this review. The asshole rich-kid role suits him well, and he seemed perfectly natural pulling it off thanks to his line-delivery and mannerisms throughout his scenes. Each other character also pulls out a fantastic job in their roles, so it would be quite pointless to run down the list and shower praise on each of the men involved; these three were definitely the highlights, however.

Overall, this is a must-see film. While I normally find that the films that receive the most attention come awards-time are highly overrated and lacking in the entertainment department, this is one of those rare cinematic moments that lives up to and exceeds all of the praise that has been showered on it. Regardless of what type of movies you prefer, you can not go wrong with this one. 10/10.
BuryMeAlive #1: BuryMeAlive - added May 17, 2005 at 1:39pm
The thing about movies like this is that the always get a 10 outta 10 even if they could been cut down like 1 hour. An ok movie, nothing more since it is really slow.
bluemeanie #2: bluemeanie - added August 9, 2005 at 4:53am
Frank Darabont scores again on yet another Stephen King adaptation. What really drives this film are amazing performances from Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, Michael Jeter, Sam Rockwell, and Doug Hutchison. This is a true ensemble film and really sticks with the Stephen King story. The drama is real, the pacing is perfect, and this is one of the better films released in the past ten years. 9.5/10.
Alex P #3: Alex P - added September 9, 2006 at 7:10pm
you might just be an idiot though. just my opinion. you should probably go watch some more movies starring the Rock.

this is one of my favourite movies. i just love the story and after i read the book...or rather 6 books that comprised it i was happy to hear they were making it a movie and it went way beyond what i expected.
Shakes #4: Shakes - added January 22, 2009 at 12:36pm
I'm giving it a 8/10 because it was so dreadfully long at some parts. It really is so, so slow! Believe me, it's a wonderful movie. The acting, all of it, is incredible. Probably one of the best King adaptations, if not the absolute best.
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