The Shawshank Redemption is a film that didn’t do much at the box office. However, home video, word of mouth and countless airings on TNT have made it an enormously popular film in the time since. Director Frank Darabont returned to prison with The Green Mile, another film based on a story by acclaimed writer Steven King. One could almost look at these two films as companion pieces. Whereas the central theme of Shawshank was the importance of never giving up hope, The Green Mile was more about the changing power of love. Granted, a 1930’s prison death row cell block isn’t the most obvious place to set a love story. Then again, we’ve all seen the obvious love stories countless times before. King has always had a knack for the original, and this film is most certainly that.
The film is a thorough examination of the guards and guests at this inn without a door. The guards are mostly cynical and worn down by the long line of murderers that have come through their walls, the inmates are deserving of their fate, and the warden benevolently looks over the whole affair, with his own demons patiently waiting for him at home. The guards and the inmates have something of a kinship, as they all spend every day together. Though there is a clear distinction between the haves and the have nots, the two sides still spend the majority of their days talking and working together.
Soon, each side gets their own catalyst for change; the guards get a mean-spirited new recruit, while the inmates get a convicted child murderer who is so timid that he is afraid to sleep without a night light. This dichotomy changes the atmosphere of the cell block in fascinating and surprising ways. While this would be enough to present a fascinating story, what happens next is truly remarkable, and it makes a good film become an exceptional one.
In a word, fantastic. The audio track here is exactly what it should be. True, it may leave some viewers reaching for the remote, but the reality is that this track is quiet when it should be quiet, and loud when it should be loud. So much of this story is told in the spaces between the dialog, and this subtle audio track does a wonderful job of conveying even the smallest detail in perfect clarity.
When the action does get intense, however, the track handles that with ease as well. The subwoofer fills out the low end powerfully and smoothly, and the surround speakers provide just the right level of ambient noise. All told, this is a first-rate track that does this wonderful film justice.
One of the biggest compliments that I can give this transfer is that is looks more like film than any disc I have seen in a long time. There is grain, but it is very fine, giving the viewer the warm feel of true film, instead of a digital format. The images are inviting, and though the colors skew toward the red, the effect is entirely pleasing. As is the case with the audio, I really can;t imagine how the transfer presented here could be any better than it is.
The original release of this film just had one extra: Walking the Mile: The Making of The Green Mile. This release includes that documentary featurette, and much more. Viewers also get two deleted scenes with optional director’s commentary, which is a great way to find out where these scenes were originally intended to be, and why they were cut.
Next up is a couple of segments that are usually found on classic film special editions, but rarely show up on modern films. Tom Hanks’ makeup tests are included on disc one, as is Michael Clarke Duncan’s screen test. It seems odd that these things are included here, but I am thrilled to see them, especially the makeup test. It just feels like a bit of old Hollywood that was so common years ago. The film’s theatrical trailer is also included, as well as something I have never seen before, called the teaser trailer: a case study. Apparently, the plan was to create a teaser that would ell audiences on the idea that this is a film about miracles, and not about prison life. Unfortunately, the final result turned out to be a comic tragedy. This segment discusses the teaser’s intentions, what went wrong, and presents the final product. Great stuff, indeed.
The special features continue with a director’s commentary from Darabont. If you have heard his fantastic commentary track from the Shawshank special edition, than you know what a treat this is. Often times, a track comprised solely of the film’s director becomes an exercise in arrogance. Darabont’s tracks, however, fill the film’s running time easily, with nothing but interesting facts.
The whole thing wraps up with an all-new 90-minute documentary called Miracles and Mystery: Creating the Green Mile. This sprawling 6-part epic is the kind of thing that is usually reserved for huge special edition releases, such as the Alien Quadrilogy, or anything involving George Lucas or Peter Jackson. It is a superbly crafted documentary that may be enough to cause fans of this film double-dip just for this alone. For once, this is a release that is truly worth of being called a “Special Edition”.
Though The Green Mile didn’t win any Academy Awards, it was nominated for four, including Best Picture. The film was both a critical and a commercial success, eventually making a profit of over $136 million. It made a star out of Michael Clarke Duncan, and is a worthy companion piece to the beloved Shawshank Redemption. If you are going to buy the film, this fantastic 2-disc set is clearly the way to go. The production value of the set is top-notch, with tons of quality extras. I would even understand why those that have the original release would want to upgrade. If you are a big fan of this film, or a sucker for quality special features, I say that this special edition is even worth the double-dip.
Special Features List
- Commentary by: writer/director Frank Darabont
- Two Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by writer/director Frank Darabont
- Tom Hanks Makeup Tests
- Michael Clarke Duncan Screen Test
- The Teaser Trailer: A Case Study
- Theatrical Trailer
- New 90-minute Documentary Miracles and Mystery: Creating the Green Mile: A 6-Part Documentary
- Walking the Mile: The Making of The Green Mile Documentary