Set in 1930s prison culture, Frank Daramont’s The Green Mile (1999) is a rather vane attempt at revisiting the sustained melodramatic poignancy of The Shawshank Redemption (1994). Based on Stephen King’s novel – basically a reworking of the crucifixion with Michael Clarke Duncan’s John Coffey as the Christ figure (spiritual guide, healer, all seeing/all knowing man of God, wrongfully accused of crimes he did not commit and sentenced to death by the state), the film’s story is relayed by nursing home resident, Paul Edgecomb (Dabbs Greer).
In his youth, Edgecomb (played in flashbacks by the rather wooden Tom Hanks), was a guard in charge of death row inmates. Suffering from a bladder infection and kidney stones, Edgecomb is seemingly cured of his ailments when inmate John Coffey (Duncan), a towering, muscle-bound giant, but with the heart of a child, places his healing hands on Edgecomb’s person.
Coffey has been convicted of the rape and murder of two children.
However, as time wears on, Edgecomb begins to believe that Coffey – in addition to being innocent – may, indeed, be the contemporary embodiment of the messiah. The quiet understanding between Coffey and Edgecomb is mildly meaningful at best and escapist melodramatic at its worst. Lengthy and leaden for the most part, The Green Mile is passable entertainment.
Darabont’s direction is solid, though slightly predictable and occasionally prone to fits of cliché that weaken the overall impact of the story. The execution of Eduard Delecroix (Michael Jeter), for example, in which perverse sadist, Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison) deliberately forgets to wet the sponge during electrocution, is a sustained cinematic exercise in the macabre without any build up.
Warner Home Video’s new 2-disc Special Edition DVD is rather disappointing. The film is spread across both discs with an intrusive interruption about two-thirds of the way through its narrative. Colors are fully saturated, bold and vibrant. Contrast levels are nicely realized. Blacks are deep. Whites are pristine. Fine details are evident throughout.
However, there is a persistent amount of edge enhancement riddled throughout this presentation, resulting in an image that – at times – is quite unstable. Vertical and horizontal lines shimmer, and there is also a minor amount of pixelization. The audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital and delivers a fairly aggressive spread across all five channels.
Extras include a six part documentary on the making of the film that provide thorough and comprehensive coverage; an audio commentary that adds as much; additional scenes, and the film’s original theatrical trailer.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)