USA / 1999
Director: Frank Darabont
Writer: Frank Darabont from Stephen King’s novel
Cast: Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse, Doug Hutchison, Sam Rockwell
After The Shawshank Redemption, director Frank Darabont stayed ‘inside’ for the Oscar-nominated The Green Mile, set in Death Row of a ’30s Louisiana penitentiary. Taken from the book written by Stephen King and famous for being issued in episodic segments, the title refers to the strip of lino leading from the condemned cell to the room holding the electric chair. Death Row is presided over by Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks), who believes in the quiet life for himself, colleagues and charges.
The poison in the pot comes from Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison), a relative of the governor who just wants to see a man electrocuted, but the real change comes in the shape of gentle man mountain John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), convicted of the brutal murder of two little girls. But Coffey has a special skill – he can heal, “take things back”, as he calls it, and he cures both Paul’s infection and the warden wife’s cancer. But as Percy and crazed prisoner Wild Bill Wharton (Sam Rockwell) upset the peace of The Green Mile, Paul begins to wonder just who it is he will be executing…
Nearly three hours in the telling, Darabont uses the luxury of length to establish then expand both the characters and the plot, gently showing how Coffey’s gift is spiritual rather than supernatural. Outstanding performances from Hanks and Oscar-nominated Gardner underpin the film but the whole cast breathe life into their characters in a satisfying, almost Dickensian manner.