#42: The Green Mile (1999)

When and how did I watch this?

March 7th and 8th, 2017, on Amazon Instant Video.

Had I seen this film already?

Most of it.  Maybe I had, but I don’t remember.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

“I’m tired, boss.  Dog tired.”  The angelic figure of John Coffey (“like the drink, only spelled different”) has left a permanent impression on me.  The hulking figure seems imposing at first, but we’re soon put at ease once we discover his power and purpose on earth. This is at the center of Tom Hanks’ 90s heyday, so his role is unforgettable as well.

What do I know about it now?

While the film seemed to lean toward hypersentimentality, it never relented on tension and pace; for such a long movie, there would be plenty of room for a lull, but The Green Mile moves from scene to scene with no jolting.  Time passes on the mile, and we really don’t know for how long Coffey (Clarke Duncan) and fellow cellmates are there, but one by one they’re executed, and for whatever reason the film portrays each of the inmates as gentle and innocent with one exception. Each of the officers on duty (again, with one terrible exception) seem to be emotionally invested in the prisoners as well. This didn’t ring true to me, but we must accept this — we at least have humane guards, which sets the tone for Coffey’s dramatic and unusual miracles. Percy (Hutchinson) and Wharton (Rockwell) are played by relatively unknown actors, but their respective performances resonate as a couple of the most disturbing antagonists on screen. The score and sound is perfection, as one might expect from a film like this.

What are some themes in the film?

The supernatural, the death penalty, spirituality/miracles, racism, nepotism, forgiveness

Did this affect me personally?

The movie makes one extended impression on the psyche. Delacroix’s execution remains as terrifying and ugly as ever.  All along, we wish Coffey would survive.

Why is this ranked #42?

In the 90s, Tom Hanks ran things: PhiladelphiaForrest GumpToy StorySaving Private RyanApollo 13, and so on. While Hanks didn’t win anything for this film, he carries it with his role as the thermostat in the block.  Along with an emotional performance from the late Michael Clarke Duncan, this one is thrust upward in the rankings. I’m not sure the film warrants its position, but it’s certainly an indelible piece of work.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She watched most of this with me and seemed to like it; I believe she was working at the same time.

Would I watch it again?

Yep.  Despite its length, it manages to have reasonable playback value.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

The film is incredibly melodramatic and lengthy, but it’s not to be missed.  There are lessons learned about humanity and the role of God on this earth, though it isn’t often contextually accurate with the Bible.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

This film is beautiful.  Every role is played like a section of an orchestra playing their lines flawlessly; the screenplay itself is highly memorable, full of dramatic sequences and perilous situations (hard to pull off in a 2000 square foot facility, primarily, with the exception of few scenes and flashbacks/forwards). Much like life, The Green Mile demonstrates that we’re dealt a hand, and we can choose each day how to respond and when to take chances, perhaps even forgiving one another when it’s against “the rules” to do so.

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