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THE GREEN MILE (1999)
In a 1930 Prison, death row guards and inmates are dramatically changed as a result of their contact with a giant of a man with a gift for healing, who brings a sense of spirit and humanity. When it is made clear to his guards that he is falsely convicted of murder, they are faced with a moral dilemma.
The cast includes: Tom Hanks, David Morse, Bonnie Hunt, Michael Clarke Duncan, James Cromwell, Michael Jeter, Graham Greene, Doug Hutchison, Sam Rockwell, Barry Pepper, Jeffry DeMunn, and Patricia Clarkson.
The screenplay was written by Frank Darabont, based on a novel by Stephen King.
Directed by Frank Darabont.
Promotional Line: "Miracles happen in the
most unexpected places."
The story begins in the present day, in a retirement home, showing an old man, Paul Edgecomb (Dabbs Greer) waking up rather upset, after having yet another nightmare. After he awakens, he goes down stairs to the home's breakfast room, orders 2 pieces of dry toast, and slips out the door for his illegal walk in the woods. Later, he is shown sitting with the others watching T.V. When someone switches to an old Fred Estaire movie, where Fred sings, "Blue Heaven," this old man starts to cry and leaves the room, followed by his female friend, Elaine "Ellie" Connelly (Eve Brent.)
They sit out on a covered, rather large, well suited verandah porch, and the old man, Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) starts to tell the elderly lady, Ellie, his story. The film flashes back to one particular year, 1935, when Paul was the head officer on death row at Cold Mountain Penitentiary, where various personal and job related problems arose to challenge him in ways that changed him forever. "I've lived a lot of years, Ellie, but 1935 takes the prize. That was the year I had the worst urinary infection of my life. That was also the year of John Coffey and the two dead girls."
In between prisoner electrocutions in "Old Sparky," the storyline explores the human factor of both guards and prisoners, including problems, joys and miracles that happen, even in such a dismal, hopeless place. There are various intermingling storylines that keep this film engrossing and riveting, never slow.
We are then introduced to the various characters on the Green Mile Cell block. The guards working under the authority of Paul Edgecomb were a good lot. Brutus Howel (David Morse) was a big, decent strong type, with a bit of a temper. Harry Ternilliger (Jeffrey DeMunn) and young Dean Stanton (Barry Pepper) were also professionals in their work, with no psychological problems. These guards followed the philosophy of Paul Edgecomb in treating their condemned prisoners. " Men under strain can snap. Hurt themselves. Hurt others. That's why our job is talking, not yelling. You'll do better to think of this place like an intensive care ward in a hospital." This philosophy worked, as they hadn't had to use the straight jacket and padded room, located on their floor, for a long time.
In any workplace, there is usually a fly in the ointment, Percy Wetmore. His philosophy about working on the Green Mile: "I think of it as a bucket of piss to drown rats in. That's all."
Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison) is a problem with a Napoleon complex, who is described as being "mean, careless and stupid," and a man with also no conscience and no courage. Edgecomb tries to get him kicked off the Green Mile after Percy deliberately breaks three fingers of prisoner Eduard ÎDel" Dela Croix (Michael Jeter) with his billy club. Paul Edgecomb, however, is forced to take him back, after a conversation with Warden Hal Moores (James Cromwell). It seems that Percy has political connections. Edgecomb starts working on a plan to get Percy to leave voluntarily.
The morning that Paul Edgecomb is suffering terribly from an awful bladder infection, he tells his wife Jan (Bonnie Hunt) that he will go to the doctor, just as soon as their new prisoner arrives that morning. The prison wagon arrives outside their Green Mile building. The wagon's back is low on the ground, like something awfully heavy is inside. Out steps an absolutely huge black man, standing 8 feet tall, by the name of John Coffey. He is led to his cell, by the obnoxious Percy, yelling, "Dead Man walking." Undaunted by his size, Paul Edgecomb enters the cell, takes off John Coffey's chains, and talks to him calmly. John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) appears to be simple-minded, very gentle sort who tells Edgecomb he is afraid of the dark, and wonders if there is a light on at night.
Not long after big John's arrival, another new prisoner arrives, completely the opposite of big John, a real, evil hellion with no social redeeming values at all. William "Wild Bill" Wharton was picked up at the mentally ill facility, because he had been putting on an act that he was crazy. Pretending to be drugged all the way to the Cold Mountain Penitentiary, he attacks Dean Stanton, choking him, once inside the Green Mile, and disables Edgecomb by hitting him in his very sore groin. Percy wimps out and can't hit this wild man on the head with his club, but Brutus arrives in time and knocks out "Wild Bill."
Percy is only a tough guy with people / mice he can bully without risk. Percy further embarrasses himself when he pees on himself, much to the delight of prisoner Del Dela Croix (Michael Jeter), the owner of the smart mouse, Mr. Jingles who does tricks for crackers. Percy doesn't forget the fact that Del laughed at him, and when opportunities present themselves, Percy finds two nasty ways to get back at Del, by attacking Mr. Jingles and deliberately bungling Del's electrocution (not for the faint-hearted.)
At this point, poor Paul Edgecomb is lying on the floor alone, in tremendous pain, as he still hadn't gone to the doctor's. When John Coffey wants to talk to him, Paul finally manages to limp over to John's cell, where Paul is in for a big surprise! John Coffey has a miraculous power of healing, which he puts into practice with not only Paul's problem, but later with Del's pet mouse and with the Warden's sick wife, Melinda Moore (Patricia Clarkson) who is gravely ill.
Edgecomb and his guards ultimately find unique ways to deal with Percy, and their unruly prisoner, "Wild Bill," and even manage to sneak Coffey out of his cell for a few hours for a middle of the night house call to the Warden's home.
But how do you handle that fact that Coffey is scheduled to die for the horrendous murders of two little girls that he didn't commit? Edgecomb knows this for certain, because Coffey shares a vision of what really happened to the little girls, who their killer was, and why John was found holding their bodies, crying and apologizing. He was apologizing because it was too late to use his healing powers, not because he had killed them. Edgecomb does what he can, as does the Warden but much to Coffey's personal relief, sentence is carried out. For various reasons, Coffey welcomes death.
The film's ending takes place in the present once again, with some revelations from John Edgecomb that the audience learns of as he tells Ellie. He shows her why he goes on walks, and shares a personal secret about himself, how he is walking his own green mile.
This powerful, riveting screenplay was written and directed by Frank Darabont, based on Stephen King's novel. Darabont also wrote & directed the screenplay for another prison film, "The Shawshank Redemption." He does a terrific job blending prison reality with side stories that are in some instances dramatic, poignant, humorous and spiritual.
His fine, gifted direction of a terrific cast brought his wonderful script to life, creating a film classic which earned 4 Academy award Nominations, including Best Picture.
Tom Hanks does an outstanding portrayal of Paul Edgecomb, a prison guard who is very good at leading his men and taking care of the prisoners, and is forever changed by healer John Coffey.
Michael Clarke Duncan was convincing as simple man, John Coffey, with a heart of gold, and a power for healing, seeing the hearts of men, and seeing the past and future. This critically acclaimed performance got his acting career rolling.
David Morse, who portrayed Brutus Howel, Paul's right hand man, was convincing. Jeffrey DeMunn and Barry Pepper gave good supporting portrayals of prison guards Harry Terwilliger, and young Dean Stanton.
Doug Hutchison does a terrific job portraying the sadistic Percy Wetmore, a real twit who is also ultimately changed by John Coffey into a person incapable of inflicting any more pain on people, and does the unexpected near the conclusion of the prison story portion of the film.
Michael Jeter as prisoner Del Dela Croix, Harry Dean Stanton as prisoner Toot-toot and Graham Greene as Arlen Bitterbuck all excel as prisoners trying to prepare for their own deaths in old Sparky.
The talented Sam Rockwell did a fantastic job portraying prisoner William "Wild Bill" Wharton, who does his best to cause problems and is the reason why the guards find themselves having to use the straight jacket and padded room to get this guy to act properly.
In one instance, bad boy Wharton puts a moon pie in his mouth until it is mush, and them spits it all over Brutus. In another incident, he pees on Harry Terwilliger. When he grabs John Coffey by the arm, John sees something in Wharton's past that disturbs him. We find out what it is and what John does about it a little while later.
James Cromwell is convincing as Warden Hal Moores, a good friend of Paul and Jan Edgecomb, who is heart sick over his wife's illness, whose erratic behavior is worsening.
Patricia Clarkson is convincing as an ill woman. After John Coffey heals her, her transition into a healthy and whole person is believable.
Bonnie Hunt is also convincing as Jan Edgecomb, Paul Edgecombâs supporting wife.
"The Green Mile" is rated R. for violence, language and some sex-related material. This is not for family viewing, definitely for the over 17 crowd. For its genre, this prison film is relatively mild in the language department. What is hard to watch are the executions carried out on various prisoners in the electric chair. One is especially brutal as it goes wrong because of Percy's deliberate failure to insure that the electricity would go to the brain first. Percy alone is a very upsetting character that would give children nightmares for weeks. The sex-related material is found in prisoners' language, in Mr. & Mrs. Edgecomb's love making, and in the fact that the two little girls, who John is convicted of killing were raped before they were killed.
Paul Edgecomb quote: "They usually call death