There was a time when everything Stephen King wrote was considered movie material. Somewhere studios were trying to figure out how to make a film franchise from his shopping lists. Most of the time the films fell massively short of the original material. The Green Mile is a noteworthy exception, as this is far superior to the King story. There are no monsters or ghouls (unless you count guard Percy), instead, this film manages to pull on your emotions in subtle ways in contrast to King’s usual M.O. of hitting you over the head with your fears. The chemistry between Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan is magical enough to make you believe the unbelievable. An ending that at first glance appears over the top and contrived quickly becomes the perfect coda to a wonderful tale.
Paul Edgecomb (Hanks) is in charge of the death row facility at Cold Mountain Prison, named The Green Mile because of the color of the floor where inmates take their final stroll. When convicted child molester and killer John Coffey (Duncan) arrives, his life is changed. Coffey heals a painful urinary infection merely by touching Paul. Paul soon becomes convinced the man is innocent and sets out in a fruitless effort to prove it. He even attempts to set Coffey free after he heals the warden’s wife of a brain tumor. Coffey has accepted his fate and willingly goes to the electric chair but not before leaving Edgecomb with a powerful gift.
The Green Mile is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. There is not a huge amount of ambient sounds but what is there is hauntingly effective. Instead of straight out sounds, the rear speakers are used primarily to create effects on the main sounds. A good example is the death row unit itself where most of the action takes place. The rears combine some echo and other effects to complete the illusion of the gritty enclosed room. Seldom has a soundtrack done so much with so little. The score is never overpowering and accents the atmosphere masterfully. The film is dialogue heavy and voices are always clear and understandable. It would have been so easy to overdo the sounds on this film but sometimes it’s what you don’t hear that has more impact. That is certainly true of this DVD.
The Green Mile is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The transfer is as magical as the film itself. Grain was used in the original print to wonderful effect and is captured well on this transfer. Darks are impressive and startlingly realistic. Flesh tones conform to period piece softness typical of this style film. It’s hard to imagine this film done with the new Digital Imaging systems being touted by Lucas and his followers. The film itself is used as a tool as integral as the sets and actors to construct a reality.
There aren’t many extras. The running time of the film makes it impossible to include much without resorting to a two-disc treatment (which this film certainly deserved). “Walking The Mile” is a very short documentary which mostly deals with the story itself and the history of the film’s development. There’s also a trailer, but that pretty much covers it. The menus are easy to navigate and fit the theme of the film well.
I’ve heard this film often compared to King’s other prison film, “The Shawshank Redemption”, but the only thing they have in common is they are both set in prisons. There is far more substance and artistic flair in the Green Mile. This film is simply a joy to watch, and the long running time will fly by. Finally, the cast is perhaps the film’s greatest asset, as all of the actors fit the roles to perfection. This might be one of the best supporting casts assembled in many years. As for Stephen King? Like the man said, “It’s quite a story”.