Frank Darabont needs to start directing films again – Stephen King adaptations if possible. His record on the big screen (The Shawshank Redemption, The Mist, and the film we’re reviewing here) speaks for itself – he’s a safe pair of hands and so much more besides.
Nowhere is this capacity for consistency more evident than in The Green Mile, which takes subject matter that could have become ham-fisted or distasteful in the hands of less assured filmmakers, and makes it palatable. At no point does it feel as long as its three hour-plus run time; not a sentence is wasted and not a shot unnecessary.
It helps that in addition to having a safe-hands director, its lead is the ultimate safe-hands actor: Tom Hanks. As part of a group of everyday Joe’s used to sending off the worst that mankind has to offer, his reaction to experiencing something inexplicable is utterly believable, never once descending into the melodrama that it could have done.
No review can be complete without mentioning the extraordinary performance given by the late, great Michael Clarke Duncan either as gentle giant John Coffey.
The nature of his powers is never explained, but such is the depth of Duncan’s portrayal that this doesn’t matter; we are sold everything we need. It would be a disservice to just mention Hanks and Duncan though; other standout turns include Doug Hutchison as the sadistic Percy Wetmore, David Morse’s good-cop prison guard Brutal and Sam Rockwell’s psychopathic Wild Bill.
It doesn’t quite hit the heights of The Shawshank Redemption, but then again not many do. The ending may strike some as slightly too clean-cut, but from another perspective it is rather fitting: the whole central conceit of the film is one of life going on, making the best of bleak circumstances, and the film’s conclusion suitably reflects this.
Few films today interrogate the kind of themes that The Green Mile attempts, let alone do so with such success. 15 years on, this remains a classic.