Matt's The Green Mile Review
Frank Darabont and Stephen King have proven over multiple projects to be a truly powerful combination. Their first collaboration, The Shawshank Redemption, is widely regarded by many to be one of the best movies ever made. The Green Mile, while not as highly regarded, is about as powerful a follow-up as audiences could hope for.
- Adaptation – The story is, for the most part, intact. As is the case with most novels, some of the elements are lost in the process of bringing the story to the big screen. I was 13 when The Green Mile was released in theaters, at that age that was one of my favorite novels – so I knew it back to front and spotted everything they changed or omitted. Nearly the entire plotline of Paul when he is older and in the nursing home, Georgia Pines, was omitted from the film. It’s not hard to see why the streamlined that part, the meat of the story is what happens at the prison, and that entire sequence is very introverted – a lot going on inside Paul Edgecomb’s head.
The biggest thing I missed in the film was the scene in the book where Paul and Brutus Howell make the mutual decision to request transfers off E-block. This was one of my favorite scenes in the novel, but I understand the filmmaker’s need to keep things at least relatively tight. The 189 minute runtime is certainly luxurious, and because the movie was that long, it was well paced and didn’t feel rushed, but including everything would’ve been impossible. Overall, I was very happy with the adaptation. The story was intact, and the most critical elements were transferred well. Best of all, Darabont seemed to understand what King was trying to achieve with the novel – all too often, filmmakers alter the feel of the material they adapt to the big screen, this didn’t happen with The Green Mile.
- Many critics reviewing this film made efforts to identify what the film was attempting to say thematically. What I’ve found is that sometimes it’s better to just enjoy the story for what it is, a story. You could read into the film, John Coffey’s initials are “J.C.”, the religious content is rampant as Paul Edgecomb tries to make sense of the things he sees. The religious aspects of the story lend a certain weight to the proceedings, and I think it’s appropriate; the story takes place on death row after all. That the job took its toll on those that performed it, is something the book spent a lot of time on, but the movie did not. I think the religious content rubs some people the wrong way, many religious films get criticized harshly, and are rated lower on sites like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB. My advice is, don’t let the religious content turn you away from this film.
This is a rock-solid performance piece, this movie is chock-full of character actors, all of whom have at least one memorable scene. Look for David Morse (The Hurt Locker, 2008), Bonnie Hunt (Jerry Maguire, 1996), James Cromwell (L.A. Confidential, 1997), Graham Greene (Dances with Wolves, 1990), Doug Hutchison (The X-Files), Jeffrey DeMunn (The Walking Dead), Patricia Clarkson (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, 2008), and Gary Sinise (Forest Gump, 1994) all of whom are brilliant.
- Well, after 2 Oscars for best actor and 3 other nominations, what else can you say about Tom Hanks? He’s a phenomenal actor, and his performance as Paul Edgecomb is one of my personal favorites of his.
- Michael Clark Duncan was a marvelous revelation when I saw him in this film. Until then, I had no idea how talented he was, and quite frankly, I can’t believe he didn’t win best supporting actor that year. I haven’t seen a performance of his to top his turn in the Green Mile. He blew me away and broke my heart. A truly amazing and show-stopping performance!
Music, Cinematography and Special Effects
- As far as composers to break your heart, you’d be hard pressed to do better than Thomas Newman. His score for The Green Mile was absolutely gorgeous, stetting a very dark and melancholy atmosphere. Perfect for a film taking place on death row.
- The settings are mostly indoors, so there isn’t a lot of cinematography to speak of. What’s interesting to me is that despite the setting of a prison, this film never feels claustrophobic. The cinematographer did well with the visual style of the film, it is good looking, just not a lot of landscapes.
- The special effects were good, subtle where appropriate, unsubtle where appropriate. No lame gimmicks to date the film, really, and nothing is overdone. This isn’t really an effects show, The Green Mile is all about the performances.
The Bottom Line
This is a great film. It isn’t the Shawshank Redemption – and fans of that film will want to keep that in mind when watching this one – but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. The two took place in prisons, and had the same director Frank Darabont, so they were bound to draw comparisons, but they are two different films. The cast is strong, Darabont shows his skills as a storyteller and the adaptation of the book was very well done. Most of all, this is a highly emotional and moving piece of work. I highly recommend it. 9/10