The Green Mile (1999) / Drama-Fantasy
MPAA Rated: R for violence, language and some sex-related material
Running Time: 189 min.
Cast: Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, James Cromwell, Bonnie Hunt, William Katt, Michael Jeter, Graham Greene, Doug Hitchison, Sam Rockwell, Barry Pepper, Patricia Clarkson, Jeffrey DeMunn, Harry Dean Stanton, William Sadler, Dabbs Greer, Eve Brent, Gary Sinise
Director: Frank Darabont
Screenplay: Frank Darabont (based on the book by Stephen King)
After creating what was, in my opinion, the best film of the Nineties (The Shawshank Redemption) in his first time at the helm, now years later writer-director Frank Darabont has the impossible task of topping himself in his second outing, The Green Mile. He heads back into the waters that struck gold for him the first time out, with another Stephen King adaptation for Castle Rock, and another one set in prison to boot. While clearly not as great as The Shawshank Redemption, the fact that this is one of the best films of 1999 should leave most satisfied that Darabont's prowess was no fluke.
Here we have a story of Paul (Hanks, Saving Private Ryan), a prison guard for death row inmates during the 1930s. One day a massive young black man named John Coffey (Duncan, Armageddon) enters the pen of the damned, after being convicted for the rape and murder of two little white girls, and Paul discovers there's more to him than meets the eye when John miraculously cures an affliction that has been paining him for some time. The miracle worker befriends the guards and together they discover the essence of good and evil in an imperfect society.
A fine cast, beautiful cinematography and stellar writing and directing by Darabont turns what might have been an overly ambitious dud at the hands of lesser talent into Academy Award-worthy material. Some may scoff at it's three hours running time, but there isn't a scene wasted, incorporating heaps of character development that ultimately pays off with a powerhouse ending (even if the epilogue does diminish some of the film's power a bit).
Deliberately paced and emotionally draining, The Green Mile is another wonderful piece of work by Darabont, taking a mediocre Stephen King series of novellas to the peak of it's potential. However, as good as his first two films have been, I hope that in his third outing we'll witness Darabont doing something altogether different, and see he can make lightning can strike a third time.
©2000 Vince Leo