I vaguely remember when this came out in theatres. I remember thinking it looked like another Amistad or The Hurricane. That is, I assumed it would be another film that, while important, would ultimately turn out to be a depressing look back at racism in the south, and it would spend no less than three hours hammering that message home.

Fortunately, it turned out to be much different. While the the subject of racism is definitely touched on, it doesn't bog the whole movie down. In fact, to my surprise, there's a great deal of humor scattered throughout the picture.

This is the film that really launched the career of Michael Clarke Duncan, and it's not hard to see why. Even though he had shown up in a big budget money-maker just a year prior (Armageddon), here he was able to really shine as John Coffey, ultimately emerging as the standout in a ridiculously talented cast that included the likes of James Cromwell, Patricia Clarkson, Bonnie Hunt, David Morse, Barry Pepper, Michael Jeter, Gary Sinise, Doug Hutchison, Jeffrey DeMunn, Harry Dean Stanton and Graham Greene.

Oh yeah. And Tom Hanks.

If there's one person who threatened to steal the show from Duncan (and in my opinion, he actually does), it's Sam Rockwell as Wild Bill. Literally, from the first time we meet him until his final scene, it's impossible not to absorb everything he does. He's extremely funny, even when he's doing or saying something completely racist.

Though the film is a little too long, it's far from torture to sit through. It has a nice pacing to it, the actors are all pleasant to watch, the picture has a rich, lush look, and director Frank Darabont's frequent music collaborator provides a worthy score. Thomas Newman is definitely one of my favorites, and if anyone out there needs a good reason to try him on, I'd direct your ears to "Coffey on the Mile." Just try and let it not do something for you.

It's an interesting idea that the movie brings up. How would anyone be able to tell if they were in the presence of a bonafide miracle, particularly in a place that doesn't exactly breed angels?

I guess the next time you're walking along and someone offers to 'help' you by placing their hands over your crotch, you should see what comes of it. Or, I suppose, you could just run the risk of waiting for a miracle with a less creepy proposition.

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