The Green Mile: Movie Review
Determining what generates a good film is often decided by the viewer or, in the case of a review, the writer. While some writers may look for a good plot and amazing cinematography, others will look for awards received or possibly an outstanding cast. The criteria I feel best signifies a great film begins with the cast. A veteran cast is undoubtedly important in making a good film.
In The Green Mile, with Tom Hanks as Prison Guard, Paul Edgecomb and Bonnie Hunt as Mrs. Edgecomb, success is almost a promise. Janet Maslin commented, “Tom Hanks, …is so unaffectedly good that it has become redundant to say so…” (1999). Supporting cast includes seasoned actors David Morse (The Negotiator, Proof of Life) as a fellow guard and James Cromwell (Secretariat, Pope John Paul II) as Warden. While experience is a plus, it is imperceptible that Michael Clarke Duncan was a novice when he played the part of John Coffey, a role that quickly propelled his career forward.
The number of awards received by a film, along with those received by the cast and director, are a good indication of a successful film. With 12 nominations, The Green Mile stands above many others. Among those nominations, are winners for Best Adapted Screenplay, Frank Darabont and Best Supporting Actor, Michael Clarke Duncan (NYTimes.com, 1999). The film is adapted from a series of books written by Stephen King. Darabont first gained notoriety when he directed The Shawshank Redemption, also written by S. King.
Another mark of a good film is the amount of revenue it brings in at the box office. In 1999, The Green Mile was ranked number 12, with approximately $136,801,374 in sales (boxofficemojo, 1999). Opening weekend, the film was ranked number five.
Mark Reiter writes, “Cloaked in the guise of a prison drama” and “how little ground Hollywood has made on the racial front.” Reiter also comments “we have a three-hour film in
which the sole black figure is locked in a cage throughout” (1999). Reiter describes the movie as a ‘prison drama.’
One of the major characters is a black prisoner on death row, circa 1935. However, the race of the character is not the foundation of the movie, nor is the prison. The foundation is John Coffey. John is introduced in a gruesome scene that implies he is guilty of a hideous crime. John has been found guilty of the crime. As the movie progresses, viewers discover John is a very gentle soul, incapable of any crime.
Indications that John is an angel are seen throughout the film, in his ability to heal the sick and communicate memories through touch. His healing abilities are shown when he brings a tiny mouse back from death. One of the most uplifting moments in the film is when John heals the terminally ill wife of the warden, gaining the respect of most of the prison staff.
The wrongdoer is a scoundrel known as Wild Bill. Bill was hired by a family man to help out around the home place. There were two young girls in the family, who were murdered by Wild Bill. John Coffey and Wild Bill both ended up on the Green Mile. During one very intense meeting between the two, Bill grabs John’s hand and in the ensuing moments, the audience is shown visions of the crime, as transported through the touching of the men’s hands. These visions are later ‘shown’ to Paul Ebsecomb and in turn, Paul realizes John’s innocence.
Ebsecomb, with his understanding of John’s righteousness, has trouble dealing with his duty to execute John, who he feels is “One of God’s true miracles.” He gains peace of mind when John tells him he no longer wants to live with the hate in the world. Offering ‘proof’ that angels exist, the movie is touching and tender to the very end. In an interview with Barnes & Noble, Tom Hanks summed it up with the comment, “The myths of old were always illuminating the great paradox of what it is to be alive. I think that Stephen King did that in this novel (Hanks, 1999).”
While all of the critics may not like the film, as indicated in Reiter’s review of the film (1999), the numbers were superb enough to make it one of the top films of 1999. With twelve award nominations, twelfth place ranking at the box office and an outstanding cast, The Green Mile was one of the top movies of 1999.