Thursday, October 27, 2011

"The Green Mile" a darkly beautiful portrait of hope

TITLE: "The Green Mile"
DIRECTOR:Frank Darabont
STARS: Tom Hanks, Michael Clark Duncan, Sam Rockwell
EDITOR: Richard Francis-Bruce
AWARDS: Best Picture (Oscar, Nomination), Best Suporting Actor (Clarke Duncan) (Oscar, Nomination), Best Sound (Oscar, Nomination), Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published (Oscar, Nomination)
BOX OFFICE: $136,801,374 (USA)
RUN TIME: 189 min.

Frank Darabont's "The Green Mile" is a story that revolves around a group of death row prison guards during the Great Depression. When a new inmate comes in  (Duncan), Paul Edgecomb (Hanks) has to deal with the hard truth of his crime, his demeanor, and his apparent miracles. Is this man guilty, insane, disabled, or a miracle of God?

This film is one of those cultural icons of the turn of the century. It skyrocketed Duncan to stardom, firmly established Frank Darabont as a force to be reckoned with, and showed a generation of genre fans that story and character were still important in a supernatural film.

Michael Clark Duncan had already appeared in the blockbuster "Armageddon" (1998), and his co-star, Bruce Willis, suggested him for this part of John Coffey. He has since become famous for the role (even earning an Oscar nomination for his portrayal). For the next decade, Duncan appeared in several blockbusters including: "Planet of the Apes" (2001), "Sin City" (2005), and "Kung Fu Panda" (2008).

In Darabont's follow up to "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994), he established himself as an incredible filmmaker with a thirst for character development. It took over three hours to tell this story (Darabont's shortest directorial effort was "The Mist" 2007 at just over two hours), with every second of screen time devoted to furthering the emotional power of the story, instead of simply presenting cause and effect events. This film did much better at the box office than Darabont's previous film, though his work as a writer saw much success through the 80's and 90's. The commercial success of this film lead to more, still risky, projects for the director, including a time as show-runner on "The Walking Dead" which currently airs on AMC.

Darabont also showed a generation of slasher/horror/ghost story enthusiasts, that films that follow a supernatural storyline can focus on character and emotion, rather than the occasional jump-scare. In a decade full of rehashes ("I Know What You Did Last Summer," "An American Werewolf in Paris" (both 1997), "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers" (1995), etc.) Darabont gave audiences something deeply enthralling, thrilling, and scary in its own right.

This film is one of a rare kind: a nearly perfect effort. Perhaps an argument could be made that it is overlong, but this writer would challenge anyone to find a scene that could be lost without the film suffering. Perhaps it is melodramatic, but the audience feels so deeply for the characters by the climax, that they are truly invested in the outcome. Some people argue that John Coffey is a racist portrayal of a black man in the south during the Depression. But, if arguing that a character is miraculous and some sort of angelic host is racism, then Clarence from "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946) paints old white men in a terrible light.

"The Green Mile" is a visceral, emotional ride, and can be hard to get through. It leaves the viewer thinking about its message for weeks. It goes beyond arguments for/against the death penalty. It shows many sides of human existence, from love, to friendship, loyalty, confusion, and all-encompassing hatred.

It is hard to classify this film, but this writer would argue that "magical" is one of the best words to describe this piece. It is wonderful, enjoyable, entertaining, and challenging. This is a film to be seen over and over again. If you have not seen it, please do so. This is perhaps one of the best films that has ever been made.

MY IMDb RATING:  10 out of 10

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