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The Green Mile (1999)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/1/2009

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/17/2009

Is Stephen King still viewed as a horror writer? Or is he just a "writer"? I honestly don't know the answer to that. Having read many of his novels and stories, many of which don't fall under the "horror" banner, I simply think of him as a "writer". But, for years, King was the "King of Horror" and when his name was mentioned, scary images usually followed. Those familiar with King knew that he was capable of writing other stories, but this changed somewhat with the release of Stand by Me. Audiences really took notice when The Shawshank Redemption hit screens. Clearly, King was a multi-faceted writer. So, we knew exactly what to expect from The Green Mile, a film which appeared to be a follow-up to Shawshank, right?

Tom Hanks stars in The Green Mile as Paul Edgecomb, a prison guard who works as the cell block supervisor on death row in a Louisiana prison during The Great Depression. He and his fellow guards - Brutal Howell (David Morse), Dean Stanton (Barry Pepper), and Harry Terwilliger (Jeffrey DeMunn) -- do good job of keeping the cell block, known as "The Green Mile" due to the green floor, safe and quiet. They have more trouble with bratty guard Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchinson). As they are in charge of executions, the men don't always enjoy their work, but they try to be professional about it. Thing on the "Mile" change when three new visitors arrive. A mouse, who is dubbed "Mr. Jingles", shows up one day and is taken in by inmate Eduard Delacroix (Michael Jeter). This mouse isn't scared of people and likes to do tricks. A dim-witted mountain of a man named John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) is brought to death row. He is soft-spoken and almost chlid-like. Raving lunatic "Wild Bill" Wharton (Sam Rockwell) also comes to be housed on the block, and this man creates nothing but trouble. At first, things seem chaotic, but fairly normal, but it soon becomes evident that there's something special about John Coffey and Paul Edgecomb's life will never be the same again.

(Like so many) I used to be a big Stephen King fan and I read The Green Mile when it was first released (in serialized book form). I enjoyed the book and greeted the movie with anticipation. However, taking a step back, I would love to know what it's like to watch The Green Mile knowing nothing about the story. If a viewer went into the film knowing that it was from a story by Stephen King, and that it had been helmed by Frank Darabont, the Writer/Director of The Shawshank Redemption, then said viewer would have certain pre-conceived notions about the movie. And for the first hour or so, those notions would seem to be correct. As with The Shawhank Redemption, The Green Mile is set in a prison in the past. But, instead of focusing on life in the prison as a whole, The Green Mile takes place on death row, with a small group of characters. The film examines everyday life on "the mile" and the toll that the job takes on the guards. But, when least expected, a supernatural element comes into The Green Mile, separating the film from The Shawshank Redemption and making the movie more akin to an older Spielberg film.

I hadn't seen The Green Mile in a few years, and I'd forgotten just how deep the story is. The six volumes which made up the book amounted to the size of a small novel (but bigger than a novella), and it's easy to forget just how deep and multi-faceted the story is. But, Darabont makes it look easy, as he takes us through interlaced stories of those who live and work on death row. And, despite the fact that the movie is over three hours long, there isn't a wasted scene, as every moment is important and many small, seemingly unimportant moments come back into play later in the film. The movie never feels long and while it's not action-packed, it is packed with story, and Darabont feeds us just enough in each scene to keep us interested.

The best part of The Green Mile, aside from the acting which it top-notch, is the film's bittersweet tone. There are some happy endings here, but not for everyone. While The Shawshank Redemption got very dark at times, The Green Mile keeps a sense of wonder, despite the fact that it deals with some depressing material. It's a chore to keep a dry eye through the last fifteen minutes, and the denouement is a final emotional twist on what has already been a tough finale. For some reason, The Green Mile doesn't come up in conversation as much as The Shawshank Redemption, but it should. This movie is just as good, and if you lean more towards the fantastic than the realistic, perhaps even better.

The Green Mile loves to bring the spool back on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc carries a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 19 Mbps. For the most part, the image is very sharp and clear, and is free from defects from the source material. However, there are some grainy shots. The grain is never overwhelming, but it's odd how some shots are so much grainier than others. The colors are fantastic, most notably blues and reds. The image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very good, we can see every pore on the actors' faces, and the depth, especially looking down "the mile" is excellent. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Considering that this is a somewhat older films and that these Dolby tracks tend to underperform, there is solid audio here. The stereo effects are good and nicely detailed. During the execution scenes, we get a nice sampling of surround effects and deep subwoofer. The audio isn't always pristine, but it shows up when it needs to.

The Green Mile Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Frank Darabont. "Walking the Mile: The Making of The Green Mile" (25 minutes) is a fairly detailed featurette. It contains comments from Darabont, King, and the cast. They discuss the story's origins, the cast, and the film's production. This contains a nice amount of on-set footage, but it's the sincere soundbytes from the speakers which make this worth watching. "Miracles and Mystery: Creating The Green Mile" (103 minutes) is a feature-length piece which takes a very detailed look at multiple facets of the film. From an examination of Stephen King to the making of the film, this entry gives us a nearly overwhelming amount of information and contains great interviews with experts on the genre. The Disc contains two DELETED SCENES which run about 4 minutes and can be viewed with commentary from Darabont. "Michael Clarke Duncan's Screen Test" (8 minutes) shows the actor taking his first crack at the role before the cameras. "Tom Hanks' Makeup Tests" (6 minutes) shows Hanks in old man makeup designed by Rick Baker. "The Teaser Trailer: A Case Study" (5 minutes) has Darabont and others discussing an ambitious trailer which was abandoned and never shown. We next see this trailer, as well as the THEATERICAL TRAILER.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long