Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Green Mile

The Green Mile is a good movie trying very hard to be a great one. It's Frank Darabont's second film from the 90s, and like The Shawshank Redemption, it is a period drama set mostly in a prison in early 20th century America, featuring a bond that forms between a white man and a black man, and based on a story by Stephen King. It also features a strong cast, and is undeniably well made even if you don't like the story. The film has an extremely stately pace and feel, almost to excess, and tugs very hard on your emotions, although it's not quite the same as Shawshank. One of the biggest reasons is that the plot actually has a supernatural element, one that would actually qualify the film as a kind of fantasy story, and one that I imagine would greatly surprise anyone who came into watching it blind, especially since this element doesn't actually surface until a full hour into the film. A lot of things are like that though, since it's three hours long when the story seems like it could have been told in two. I wouldn't say it was too long exactly, or that it ever really got boring, I just don't see what the benefit was to giving every single bit of story as much time as the producers would physically allow to develop.

So Tom Hanks is in charge of death row at a prison. Most of the prisoners are decent guys who did wrong, but the two that get brought in after the movie begins are different. Michael Clarke Duncan is a saintly giant, the ultimate version of the magical negro. Sam Rockwell is a deranged, freakish bastard. Hanks is the boss of several recognizable faces as the other guards, who are mostly good men like he is, except for Doug Hutchison's character, a privileged piece of shit with family connections who wants to watch a couple crooks fry before transferring to a better paying job. Sam Cromwell plays the warden, and Patricia Clarkson is his wife dying of a brain tumor. Those are pretty much all the pieces that will be shuffled around, as the guards learn more about Duncan's abilities and realize why he ended up getting sentenced to death for the rape and murder of two young girls. The acting is good all around, especially the two leads, with Hanks' weariness over what his job is doing to him and Duncan's otherworldly innocence, despite the stereotypical nature of the character. It really is a well produced film, and I liked the mixture of fantasy bits with an old fashioned southern drama. But it seems like the kind of thing I'd struggle mightily to ever watch again, and the whole movie is quite possibly just a bit up its own ass. Still, I liked it.

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