The Green Mile

1999, Movie, R, 187 mins


Pure corn, so beautifully crafted and emotionally satisfying that surrender to its cliches is easy, even though they're recycled from pretty much every life-affirming prison movie ever made. Adapted from the 1996 Stephen King novel, originally published in serialized form, the story is set in 1935 Louisiana, where Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) supervises Cold Mountain Penitentiary's death row inmates — they call his beat, E Block, the "Green Mile" in deference to the color of the faded linoleum floor. Under Edgecomb's calm and fair-minded direction, the Mile is a pretty decent place for the end of the line, despite inevitable irritants like sadistic guard Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison), whose connections keep him from being fired. But everything changes when John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) arrives to await execution. A massive black man, seven feet of pure muscle criss-crossed with scars, Coffey has the demeanor of a sweet-natured child; his manner is disturbingly at odds with his conviction for raping and murdering two little girls. As Edgecomb gets to know his new charge, he begins to suspect there's more to this gentle giant than meets the eye... much more; Edgecomb begins to believe that Coffey has been touched by the hand of God, who surely wouldn't waste His bounty on a baby killer. King has two basic modes, ooga-booga and misty-eyed sentimental; Green Mile is firmly in the latter camp. The material is derivative and pandering; everything plays out the way you want it to, which isn't always the way it should (the fate of clever mouse Mr. Jingles is the perfect example). But Frank Darabont (THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION) directs in classic Hollywood style, smooth and self-effacing, and his cast does the same; their modest, on-the-money performances, which look effortless because they're so meticulously thought out, make the hours fly by. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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