The Green Mile

The Green Mile is probably one of the more anticipated mainstream holiday movies of the year. And how can it not be? It stars Tom Hanks (Toy Story 2, You've Got Mail), and is directed by Frank Darabont, the same man who made The Shawshank Redemption. Both are movies adapted by Darabont from stories by Stephen King, and both deal with life in prison in an unconventional way. Plus, after viewing, both are excellent films. The Green Mile takes place in 1935, on death row somewhere in the South. Usually called the "last mile" because of the path to the electric chair, the Green Mile takes its name from the lime green color of the prison floor.

Paul Edgecomb (Hanks) is in charge of the Green Mile. He is an upstanding guard, always treating his prisoners with respect and restraint over force. Working under him are Brutus Howell (David Morse, Crazy in Alabama, Dancer in the Dark), Dean Stanton (Barry Pepper, Saving Private Ryan, Battlefield Earth), Harry Terwilliger (Jeffery DeMunn, X-files: Fight the Future, ABC's Storm of the Century), and Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchinson, Bait, A Time to Kill), a newer addition to the crew. Wetmore (as his name implies) is the polar opposite of the seasoned guards. He is young and brash, with a penchant for cruelty and violence. He is a bubble just waiting to burst.

In terms of inmates, only a couple are introduced. There is Eduard Delacroix (Michael Jeter, Jakob the Liar, True Crime), Arlen Bitterbuck (Graham Greene, Thunderheart, Maverick), and William "Wild Bill" Wharton (Sam Rockwell, Celebrity, A Midsummer Night's Dream), a later addition. Of the problems, the only problem is William, who is violent, homicidal, and extremely dangerous. The other new inmate is John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan, Armageddon, A Night at the Roxbury), a towering black man in prison for the murder of two young white girls. His very appearance is intimidating as he looms over everyone else in sight, and he has the physique to match. However, his mannerisms are similar to that of a child. He is soft-spoken, extremely polite, and afraid of the dark. So goes life on the Green Mile, for the most part, pretty uneventful.

The Green Mile is episodic in nature, with Darabont seemingly afraid to trim anything down, and although it is slow at times, the movie is never slow moving (for its entire three hours). Edgecomb has a urinary tract infection, which slowly begins to affect his work. After a particularly painful incident, Coffey (please note that the initials J.C DO NOT allude to Joan Crawford) takes hold of Edgecomb through the bars of his cell, and miraculously heals him. Thus begins the steady march towards the conclusion, with Edgecomb trying to deal with his experience. He begins to doubt Coffey's guilt. How can a man with the innocence of a child and the power to heal end two lives? Moreover, how can Edgecomb bear the guilt of executing someone who may be a gift from God? Coffey slowly begins to changed Edgecomb, and the other guards and inmates of the Green Mile.

Darabont depicts prison life as quite boring. Then, he brings the audience out of its lull with the executions, which are intense and brutal electrocutions. There are also humorous interludes involving Delacroix's mouse Mr. Jingles and Edgecomb's relationship with his wife. An understanding exists between most of the guards and the prisoners. The inmates are getting ready to die, and the guards do their best to respect the remainder of the prisoners' lives. The performances are good all around, with Duncan's performance surpassing all others. Previously, Duncan's stature relegated him to stereotypical tough black guy roles, but his performance here shatters any preconceived notions about his acting abilities, and will hopefully pave the way for meaty roles for this good actor. Hanks is good, but not at his best. James Cromwell and Bonnie Hunt also give good performances in smaller but crucial roles. Hutchinson and Rockwell also elevate their statuses in the eyes of Hollywood with their performances. Great performances, great production, and a great story, the Green Mile's is worth every one of its one hundred eighty-eight minutes.

Haro Rates It: Really Good.
3 hours, 8 minutes, Rated R for violence, language, and some sex-related material.

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