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Frank Darabont
Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse, Bonnie Hunt, James Cromwell, Michael Jeter, Graham Greene, Doug Hutchison, Sam Rockwell, Barry Pepper
Writing Credits:
Stephen King (novel), Frank Darabont

Miracles do happen.

Tom Hanks plays Depression Era death-row prison guard Paul Edgecombe, who is assigned to watch over John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), an enormous black man convicted of murdering two young white girls. But all is not what it seems with Coffey, who has strange healing powers, leading Hanks and his comrades to believe that putting the man to death is the worst thing any of them can do.

Box Office:
$60 million.
Opening Weekend
$18.017 million on 2875 screens.
Domestic Gross
$136.801 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 188 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 6/13/2000

• “Walking the Mile” Featurette
• Biographies
• Trailer


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Green Mile (1999)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 13, 2006)

The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption share a lot of similarities. Both films were based on stories by Stephen King, both were directed by Frank Darabont, and both take place in prisons. They also go for that kind of uplifting, triumph of the human spirit feel.

One way in which they diverge, however, revolves around the public's initial opinions of the films. When Shawshank hit theaters in 1994, it raised nary a peep from the movie-going public. It grossed a meek $28 million and that was that.

Or was it? The movie generated a new life on home video and has become something of a hit in later years. It generated quite a lot of buzz when it finally came out on DVD in December 1999. Many more people bought this DVD than you'd expect would for a then-five-year-old movie that didn't do much theatrically. Stunningly, Shawshank also ranks second on the all-time "best movies" list as polled by readers of IMDB! Only The Godfather boasts a higher ranking among IMDB patrons.

The Green Mile received a somewhat different reception. It hasn't maintained quite the same kind of following generated by its predecessor, even though it enjoyed much greater success theatrically. The film raked in a tidy $136 million in the US, which is a pretty amazing sum for a three-hour prison movie.

A minor backlash appeared to set in around the time of the Academy Awards, but Mile rebounded and turned into another enduring fan favorite. It doesn’t rival the affection generated by Shawshank, but as its rank at 130th on IMDB shows, it maintains a pretty good following.

As for myself, I rather liked the film. Despite its length - which probably is too long, honestly - I thought it offered an interesting story that was told in a compelling manner. Can the film seem a bit trite or hokey at times? Most definitely. Darabont can be a "lowest common denominator" filmmaker who goes for the obvious emotional response in his work rather than trying to do something unusual. You're not likely to find anything to challenge or surprise you in Mile, and the characters largely appear as vague stereotypes with little to distinguish them.

That said, Mile undeniably offers an entertaining and occasionally moving experience. You may be aware that Darabont is pushing your buttons in an obvious manner, but those buttons are pushed nonetheless, and despite my awareness, I never felt used or manipulated.

I think much of the reason why the film ultimately succeeds comes from its tremendously strong cast. None of these actors provide their best work, but all are completely solid, and the simple fact that the cast has such depth means that virtually all of the roles provide strong and broad portrayals of their characters. From top to bottom, there's not a weak link. Tom Hanks is really the only star in the cast, and his lead performance as prison guard Paul Edgecomb seems like typical Hanks: tastefully understated and effective.

After Hanks, we find a great roster of fine character actors: David Morse, Bonnie Hunt, Michael Jeter, Barry Pepper, James Cromwell, Graham Greene, William Sadler and even Harry Dean Stanton and Gary Sinise in some very small parts. I'd not heard of Doug Hutchison, and I didn't recognize Sam Rockwell when I first saw the flick, but both were very good as the film's main bad guys.

Michael Dean Clarke received the film's only acting Academy Award nomination as child-like convict John Coffey. While I can't say it was unwarranted, since he's quite good in the part, it seemed almost a shame to single out one actor from such a terrific cast. Since Hanks is clearly dominant over the others, Mile isn't a true ensemble piece, but it's pretty close, and it succeeds largely based on the reality these performers add to their roles.

Mile certainly isn't without its flaws. At more than three hours, it's too long, and a few subplots easily could have been lost. I wasn't too wild about the mystical mumbo-jumbo aspects of the film, especially as they create too overt a connection between this story and that of Christ. Nothing against the latter, but such aspirations don't work particularly well here. The film also bops a little too quickly between tragedy and high drama and simple comedy. Throwaway lines quickly undo some of the most emotional scenes, and that alleviates some tension but not in a positive way.

But even with its faults, I still liked The Green Mile. I won't call it a classic, but I think it's on a par with The Shawshank Redemption. It's a solid and well-crafted film that tells a compelling story and usually does so in an entertaining and provocative manner.

Footnote: One thing always bothered me about the movie. Whenever Coffey heals someone, it's always via his mouth except when he cures Edgecombe's urinary infection. At that time he uses his hands. I can't say I was disappointed not to see the logical manner via which Coffey should have treated Edgecombe's problem, but it does seem inconsistent. Guess they wanted to avoid that NC-17!

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B+/ Bonus D+

The Green Mile appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The film usually looked fine, but with so much video on one disc, compression took a hit and made this one somewhat erratic.

Sharpness seemed inconsistent. Most scenes showed good delineation, but more than a few soft spots appeared. Though many of these affected wide shots, even some tighter images came across as a bit ill-defined. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement appeared to be minor. The print itself looked clean, though I noticed a bit more grain than expected, and I also saw examples of compression artifacts.

The movie stuck to a fairly subdued palette and generally presented a golden tone that imbued a vaguely "period" look to the piece. In any case, colors appeared accurate and solid with no issues related to them. Black levels seemed nicely deep and dark but not muddy, but shadows were a bit dense. Low-light situations tended to be somewhat thick much of the time. This was a watchable transfer but it seemed too erratic to merit a grade above a “B-“.

The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack seemed more consistent, at least. Mile wasn't exactly an audio extravaganza, but the mix worked nicely to bolster the action onscreen. The soundfield appeared well-localized overall. Dialogue stuck pretty closely to the center, but effects popped up in their correct spatial zones, and the music spread smoothly to all the channels. The best moments clearly occurred when the track moves into a more active realm, generally during the execution scenes, which featured some very good use of all five speakers. However, even during the many quieter moments, the audio surrounded me nicely with a realistic environment.

Sound quality seemed consistently solid. Dialogue always appeared warm and natural with no intelligibility issues. Effects were clear and realistic, and music seemed bright and bold. Both of the latter aspects also featured some very strong bass at appropriate moments. The soundtrack to Mile did what it needs to do and did it well. As with the picture, it may not be the piece you'll use to show off your system, but it's very well done.

The only area in which the DVD of The Green Mile disappoints stems from its lack of substantial supplemental features. For once, I won't blame the studio for this, since from what I've heard, it's not their fault. Apparently director Frank Darabont isn't much of a fan of things like audio commentaries - at least not for his own work - and he seems to prefer to let the material stand for itself. I disagree with him on this notion, but I can't fault his apparent thought processes, and at least we seem assured that this wasn't a case of the studio just being cheap.

In any case, we only find a few extras. The most substantial is Walking the Mile, a better-than-usual ten-minute and 37-second featurette. You won't find any revelations or insight in this combination of interviews, movie clips and shots from the set, but the latter aspect of the program added a lot to it. We find many more "behind the scenes" glimpses than typical for this kind of featurette, and many of them are quite interesting. I wish the program were longer and more substantial, but for what it is, it provides a nice look at the creation of the movie.

We also get some passable biographies for actors Hanks, Morse, Duncan and Hunt as well as Darabont and King. (By the way, as is the case with many Warner Bros. DVDs, you'll find listings for many more cast and crewmembers, but these six are the only ones that yield additional text - seems like the old bait and switch to me!) The DVD finishes with the movie's theatrical trailer.

The Green Mile offers an entertaining little fable that takes too long to get to its conclusion and follows too many dead ends along the way, but I still felt that it worked well as a whole, largely due to the presence of a fine cast. The DVD itself offers very good audio but suffers from erratic visuals and skimpy extras. This is a fine movie but not a particularly strong DVD.

To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of THE GREEN MILE

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