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With: Tom Hanks, David Morse, Bonnie Hunt, Michael Clarke Duncan, James Cromwell, Michael Jeter, Graham Greene, Doug Hutchinson, Sam Rockwell, Barry Pepper, Jeffrey DeMunn, Patricia Clarkson, Harry Dean Stanton, Dabbs Greer, Eve Brent
Written by: Frank Darabont, based on a novel by Stephen King
Directed by: Frank Darabont
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language and some sex-related material
Running Time: 188
Date: 06/12/1999

The Green Mile (1999)

3 Stars (out of 4)

'Green' Guards

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Buy The Green Mile on DVD

When writer/director Frank Darabont last made a movie out of a Stephen King prison story it was a critically-acclaimed flop. In the five years since its release it has found a strong and true following on home video and now The Shawshank Redemption (1994) has slowly seeped its way into becoming an American classic. Darabont returns this week with The Green Mile, another Stephen King prison story, and he has some big shoes to fill.

Although The Green Mile is a satisfying and affecting movie, it's not The Shawshank Redemption -- not by a long shot. Set in the mid-1930's, it concerns a death row prison block (known as 'the green mile') and stars Tom Hanks as the head guard. Four prisoners come and go from the green mile, including an enormous cement truck of a man named John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan, from Armageddon (1998), who may net himself an Oscar nomination with this fine performance). Coffey exhibits a mystifying behavior that makes the guards question everything they think they know up to that point. Other prisoners are the dangerous and psychopathic 'Wild Bill' (Sam Rockwell) and the gentle 'Del' (Michael Jeter) who befriends a mouse that lives on the mile. And there is trouble with a sadistic, cowardly guard (Doug Hutchinson). All these performances are superior.

There are many subplots in this movie's three-hour-plus running time but Darabont has a wonderful touch and good pacing that makes everything feel balanced, seamless, and unhurried. The most pronounced subplot deals with the supernatural and, though that's supposed to be the whole point of the movie, I found myself more involved with the human beings in the story than with the magic, which first appears well into the film. As this subplot becomes increasingly significant to the story, the movie becomes less and less sure of itself, collapsing into a sea of sugary goo in the last fifteen minutes. Moreover, the movie isn't sure if it wants this effect to be magical or religious in nature. But before the movie lost me, it had me for a good long time. Overall The Green Mile is worth a look.

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