Walk the green mile with me

By Corky Thatcher

You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll be absorbed by this movie for three hours. Not until the next day, will you realize you got cheated.

The Green Mile is the much talked about adaptation of Stephen King’s serial novel. King wrote and published The Green Mile 100 pages at a time, not knowing how it was going to end. The story is told by an elderly Paul Edgecombe (Tom Hanks) who reflects on life as head guard on Cold Mountain Penitentiary death row, aka the Green Mile. He remembers when a large, simple-minded black man (Michael Duncan) named John Coffey ("like the drink, ‘cept not spelled the same"), is sent to death row for the rape and murder of two white girls.

It turns out that John has a supernatural power to heal people with his touch, which makes Paul question whether or not John is guilty of killing the two girls. After all, he asks himself, how could God trust such a miracle into an evil person?

There are plot twists and ironies typical of any Stephen King story. The ending is a surprise that almost works, but you can tell King didn’t know how the story was going to end while he was writing.

The movie’s good, but I kept waiting for more. With themes like capital punishment and race relations, I expected more. The movie tries so hard not to offend anyone, you feel cheated when none of these themes are explored. The primal way these people’s lives are ended (one prisoner in particular suffers an extremely horrible death), are taken for granted. And we hardly see the way they spend their last days.

Having something to say may not be important. Maybe you just want to see a movie that’s interesting, well acted and moving. This movie does that.

The acting especially is amazing. Duncan stands out in the role of Coffey, in particular his "glass in the head" speech. He takes a role that almost seems straight out of Amos n’ Andy, and gives us something more.

I don’t know what to say about Tom Hanks. On one hand, I’ve never seen a urinary infection played with such conviction. On the other, he doesn’t seem very conflicted over walking prisoner’s down the Green Mile. He befriends the prisoners he supervises, but then, with no trouble, straps them into Ol’ Sparky.

This is the third movie by writer/director Frank Darabont, who also wrote and directed The Shawshank Redemption. Shawshank was also based on a Stephen King story, and so was Darabont’s first movie, 1983’s The Woman in the Room.

But Darabont and King aren’t the only things Shawshank has in common with The Green Mile. The Green Mile and Shawshank share a few actors and both involve possibly innocent prisoners.

The supernatural part of the story, Coffey’s healing, is bothersome at first–shouldn’t it be relegated to horror movies and not dramas? But Darabont, who is actually a huge horror fan and started his career writing horror movies, handles it well. It is worth seeing.

The Green Mile opens on Dec. 10.

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