The Green Mile

I've read THE GREEN MILE, by Stephen King, twice now.

Well, actually I have only read it once, but the film version of this book is so damn close to the original vision of the author that it's somewhat frightening.

There is always some degree of difference between a movie and the original book that it is based on. Sometimes it's pretty close and sometimes it's so far from the original that it's hardly recognizable. It seems that movies made from Stephen King books have the worst track record in this area. In fact, the movie "The Lawnmower Man", based on an original short story by King, was SO different that the author sued to have his name removed from the original title of "Stephen King's Lawnmower Man". The movie, which wasn't TOO bad, had nothing at all to do with the book, with the exception of the title.

Before I go on with this review, I want to state for the record that yes, THE GREEN MILE is indeed a Stephen King idea. Even so, please don't get it in your head that this is a horror movie. Many people don't realize that Stephen King is much more of a writer than just the horror genre. If you found yourself enjoying films like "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Stand By Me", you have found yourself enjoying this wonderful author's work.

But indeed, I seem to be talking more about the BOOK than the MOVIE, and this review is supposed to be about the MOVIE. Maybe this can give you an idea of just how damn close this movie is to the original story. To discuss one is to discuss the other. In a nutshell, it's probably more closely adapted to the screen than any other book before.

Anyway, what I intend to do here is divide this review in half, and break it down into two sections. The first section will be for people who have NEVER read THE GREEN MILE by King, and the second will be for people who have read the novel. I'll see you both again afterwards.......

"I have never read THE GREEN MILE by Stephen King..........."

THE GREEN MILE takes place in the death-row ward of Cold Mountain Penitentiary in depressed 1935. Tom Hanks and the rest of his brilliantly cast crew work the Green Mile, the final walk down inmate lane over a long green stretch of linoleum, to the electric chair. All is business as usual- "incarcerate 'em then incinerate 'em", until John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) is sentenced to death and held on the Green Mile. This hulking beast of a man who is frightening in stature yet gentle and timid, has extraordinary and supernatural powers. The men on both sides of the bars on the Green Mile soon realize that there is much more to Coffey than meets the eye, and each and every one of them, good or bad, is eventually touched by this magical man, and each in a very different way. By coincidence a small gray mouse appears in the cell block about the same time as Coffey, and the entire movie is hinged upon the relationship between this tiny mammal, this hulking death-row inmate, and the residents and guards of the final walk called THE GREEN MILE.

"I have read THE GREEN MILE by Stephen King and I loved it........."

Ok, this is the part I was eager to write. I've stated already that this movie is MUCH like the book, but it goes much deeper than that. This book really came alive for me when I read it, and it shocked me how much this movie LOOKED like what I had pictured in my mind while reading the book. You know JUST who everyone is before they define the characters. Ok, so John Coffey is pretty obvious since he is a hulking muscular black man with a build that would impress Andre the Giant, but the rest of the cast, as they appear, leave no doubt as to just who they are. The evil Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchinson) IS Percy Wetmore, and so on.

As far as I can remember there is not once single scene cut from the book, with the single exception of the scenes that return to the present with an aging Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks character) in a nursing home telling the tale of Coffey, and the mouse, and the Mile. This part of the book is only represented at the beginning to set the stage, and again at the end to wrap it all up (brilliantly I might add), but once the movie cuts back to the old days on the Green Mile, you are there until the emotional end. From the circus tricks of Mr. Jingles the mouse, to the night journey and the final magic of John Coffey, it's all here, scene for scene and line for line. A special tip of my hat must also go to the movie makers for truly bringing my all time favorite scene from the book to life... perfectly, as Harry Dean Stanton gives a flawless performance as "Toot-toot", the prison trustee used for "practice" runs of executions in "old Sparky".

Now to merge these two lines of thought and bring this thing home.........

THE GREEN MILE, directed by Frank Darabont, is a whopper of a movie weighing in at over 3 hours long. Yet despite it's massive length it never once drags and there seems to be nothing that could have been eliminated to shorten it. It should be interesting come Oscar time to see how this movie fares. Perhaps due to length and the size of the undertaking of it all it will be compared to TITANIC, but whatever the case may be, THE GREEN MILE is easily one of the best movies I have ever had the pleasure of sitting through. From the flawless casting that made these characters from the book come to life, to the memorable performances by Tom Hanks, David Morse, James Cromwell, and the rest of the cast, THE GREEN MILE is a movie that won't soon fade from memory. To see THE GREEN MILE is to be part of THE GREEN MILE. Like it is stated in the film, "What happens on the mile, stays on the mile", and once you walk that lime-green corridor, what you see there will stay with you forever.

Until next time, the balcony is condemned.

Dr. Torgo