Review: The Green Mile (1999)

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Walking down a lime green floor on the way to my death would be highly disconcerting. How about forest green or even red, let’s get cheerful people!

Screenplay By: Frank Darabont
Directed By: Frank Darabont

There’s something about a story that allows itself length and breadth to unfold that appeals to me. I’ve heard people complain that The Green Mile is too long and I honestly don’t get that complaint. It doesn’t jump right into the story, it allows that story to unfold and unfurl over time so that when you do get to the heavily dramatic moments you care about the characters and hate a few of them as well. The Green Mile could have been a manipulative movie, and it still may be in some moments, but because it gave itself the right amount of breadth to unfold it doesn’t need to be manipulative. It’s long and languid narrative allows you to become enveloped in the story and the characters and after a while you don’t even realize how much time has gone by. Great movies do that, they flow and move at whatever pace they so desire and the viewer doesn’t realize whether it is long or short because of how taken they are with the complete package of the movie.

The Green Mile looks and feels authentic. From the accents all the way down to the costumes, and the sign informing transients to turn back because there are no jobs in this town. Its authenticity is a big factor in your ability to buy into the fantasy elements. By placing the story in a time when the world was down trodden and people were looking for a miracle you are able to believe that someone like John Coffey could come along and offer said miracle. You are also able to believe that the people would never accept him and that much like the Christ character he is modeled on he would be sacrificed to appease our own sins. The metaphor in The Green Mile is thick and it could be heavy handed, but I didn’t find it to be so. I thought it was surrounded nicely by the realistic depiction of the times and the characters, and because of that the metaphor was revealed naturally as opposed to being forced on the viewer.

Because of the cloistered nature of The Green Mile, it may be long in length but it is intimate in scope, the acting becomes something that could either make or break the film. There’s not much to say about Tom Hanks or Michael Clarke Duncan, both men become their roles and provide The Green Mile with all the emotional depth that it needs. Their performances are obvious, earnest and clearly great without any more extrapolation needed from moi. But, the rest of the cast pulls the movie together and makes it a full-fledged fictional universe. None of them stand out in an awe inspiring sense, but David Morse as Brutal, Michael Jeter as Delacroix, James Cromwell as the warden, Sam Rockwell as Wild Bill, Doug Hutchison as Percy, Barry Pepper as Dean, and more provide The Green Mile with a lived in feel. They aren’t the main characters, but they become the life and soul of The Green Mile. Two great performances can carry a film, but a film can only be great if the rest of the cast is along for the ride as well. The rest of the cast was along for the ride in The Green Mile, and they stopped the film from ever being manipulative and heavy handed because you could imagine those people living and breathing. They are reality, they aren’t caricatures. The Green Mile isn’t make believe, it is real, and we are all the beneficiaries of its reality.

I recommend a lot of films, enjoying a lot of films comes with watching so many movies and being a minor film buff. The Green Mile is another film I would recommend, and recommend highly. It is an adroit and very smart film that knows just where and how to touch you emotionally. It is the perfect accompaniment to Frank Darabont’s other great prison drama, The Shawshank Redemption. If you haven’t yet done so, check out The Green Mile, but only do so if you are willing to give a movie the time it needs to grow and become great.

Rating:

****

Cheers,
Bill Thompson

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One response to “Review: The Green Mile (1999)

  1. Pingback: “The Green Mile”: From heartbreaking to weird and back to heartbreaking « Radu presents: The Movie-Photo Blog

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