The Green Mile
More prison pals and predicaments from the director of ''The Shawshank Redemption.''
Based on a Stephen King novel, ''The Green Mile'' takes us behind the bars of the death row block at the Cold Mountain Correctional Facility and into the lives (and deaths) of the guards and the condemned. (The title refers to the tacky green tile that paves the way to the electric chair. What a way to go!) Life quickly changes for head block guard Paul Edgecombe (Tom Hanks) when he encounters the new inmate, John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), a towering black man, questionably convicted for killing two young girls yet possessing a miraculous power.
So much praise have been heaped on Hanks that one has to wonder if he's just a bit overrated. Those thoughts quickly evaporate as the actor fills the skin of another of his classic, yet diverse characters. Hanks never appears to be acting as he makes us forget the Oscar-collecting performer and becomes a 1930s Louisiana prison guard. The amazing Clarke Duncan, both physically menacing and radiantly warm, also completely inhabits his role. Clarke Duncan is so mesmerizing as the gentle giant, you'll be convinced that he was created just for this part. (Though I hope this is just the start of a long career.) With such exceptional leads, it would be easy for the supporting cast to fade into the background, but actors such as James Cromwell, Doug Hutchison and Sam Rockwell are too good to be overlooked.
It took five years for director/screenwriter Frank Darabont to make his follow-up to his previous Stephen King penned prison drama and proves worth the wait. Darabont explores the range of human kindness and cruelty as he lovingly and patiently sculpts his large cast of characters against magnificent scenery. He trusts his attention-impaired audience to sit tight for a full three hours and rewards us with a film that breathes and surrenders rich characters that intimately bond with the viewer.
The best time you'll have behind bars.