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The Green Mile (1999) – Movie Review

The Green Mile movie poster

Written and Directed by: Frank Darabont, based on the novel by Stephen King
Starring: Tom Hanks, David Morse, Michael Clarke Duncan, James Cromwell, Michael Jeter

My Advice: Matinee

Paul Edgecomb (Dabbs Greer) is an old man with a strange past, which gives him plenty of sleepless nights. When he finally begins to crack a bit about the edges, his friend Elaine (Eve Brent) becomes concerned, so he finally unburdens his tale upon her. It so happens that during the Depression, when Paul was younger (Hanks), he was a prison guard on death row. This particular row was known as The Green Mile. His life, and the life of his co-workers, is changed forever when a hulking giant of a man, John Coffey (Duncan), is brought in for execution.

Add another title to the list of good King cinematic adaptations. In fact, were it not for the attention the novel garnered when it was first published in serialized form, this would surprise the same cinemagoers who could not believe King brought us the basis for Stand By Me and Shawshank Redemption. It’s so unlike him, they would say… not an undead shambling thing to be found. Well, surprise and get over it. King is a masterful storyteller, and when his game is on… it is on with a vengeance, no matter the subject.

[ad#longpost]Why so much talk of King’s prose? Well, it’s been brought to life with little alteration by screenwriter/director Darabont, who appears to hit the nail on the proverbial head… for the second time running. His directing and style is as solid as it is effective. Of course, he gets by with a little help from his friends… namely, the top notch dead-on acting ensemble which contains no weak links. None. Heading up everything is Hanks, who it’s obvious works very hard to make his roles look, on the surface at least, effortless. His work is always a joy to witness. Right behind him is Duncan, who manages to capture the essence of the character’s selflessness and makes us believe that a mountain such as he could really be afraid of the dark. Other standouts include David Morse delivering his role as another prison guard, “Brutal,” so well that you wonder where he’s been hiding. Great character actor Michael Jeter, a true SDI fave, plays the cajun Delacroix.

If there is any beef with this film, it’s that it leans toward the long side. Of course, in the shadow of Titanic, three hours and a bit is no longer so strange. But it’s always in how that time is handled. In this case, I got the feeling that certain scenes could have been tightened up to keep one’s ass from dozing. Regardless of this concern, it’s still a fine film that’s emotionally engaging without being out and out pandering. See it on the big screen to maximize impact.

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