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|May 5, 2000||
Life in death valley
Hope is a dangerous thing," says Red (Morgan Freeman) to fellow prisoner Andy (Tim Robbins) in Frank Darabont's directorial debut, The Shawshank Redemption.
Darabont adheres to a similar setting, tone and theme for The Green Mile too -- it's all about hope. But the resemblance stops there, because this film is neither about jail break, nor rape, nor about the need to live.
It is about endings, euphemistically speaking. The end of Life on Old Sparky, the electric chair in a Louisiana prison. But it is also about beginnings. Once you watch the film, you will begin to question the judicial system and, even though it sounds ridiculous, you may begin to believe in the power of life's little miracles!
The Green Mile is the story of inmates on death row. But, as they die, the writer-director begins building hope in your heart, as he channels your feelings from indifferent to caring.
The story is narrated through a series of flashbacks by Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks), a guard at the Cold Mountain Penitentiary. Things change drastically for Paul when John Coffey (Michael Clarke Ducan), a giant of a man, is brought in on the charges of rape and the brutal murder of two young girls.
With Coffey's appearance, though, mysterious things begin happening on the Green Mile (thus named because of the green linoleum covering the floor leading to the chair).
It begins with the appearance of Mr Jingles, a tiny mouse befriended by Eduard Delacroix (Michael Jeter). Mr Jingles soon becomes the center of attraction with his little tricks.
Then you discover Coffey is incapable of murder. He is a real life gentle giant, who is even afraid to sleep in the dark. But he lives with a curse, the curse of healing pain and evil. The only way he can do this is by taking the pain of others onto himself. Edgecomb discovers this when Coffey cures his painful urinary infection.
If there is a villain in the story, it's the benign Percy Whitmore (Doug Hutchison), nephew of the warden Hal Moores (James Cromwell), who hates himself so much; he can't help but take it out on others.
The movie maintains the pace of the novel as it unfolds characters and situations which have been carefully paced -- each end leads on to a new beginning, each tear to a smile which, in turn, leads to a tear...
No one could have made a better Edgecomb than Tom Hanks. But the one actor who sinks into his character is Doug, you've never hated anyone as much.
The film itself is a difficult piece of work because the location doesn't change much. Yet you never feel claustrophobic or yearn to leave the Mile. The background score by Thomas Newman (who also composed the music for Shawshank...) is subdued and compliments the film. Technically, the film is superb. The camera is effectively used to make Coffey look larger than life.
Horror miester Stephen King has been a constant source of fodder for the Hollywood machinery, much like John Grisham today. Brian De Palma made his debut with Carrie, while Stanley Kubrick took a shot at The Shining which left many fans in dismay.
Misery won Kathy Bates the Oscar for best actress. The horrifying Cujo was relentless in its appeal, but the makers chickened out and changed the ending.
The Shawshank Redemption, on the other hand, was a faithful adaptation of Stephen King's novella, Rita Hayworth And The Shawshank Redemption, from his book, Different Seasons. Many consider this to be a modern day masterpiece about the triumph of the human spirit and it will probably be one of the best King adaptations ever.
That could be because Darabont is anything but chicken. He has no qualms about showing everything and what he doesn't show, he suggests so that you see the unseen as clearly as the picture in your hand.
With The Shawshank Redemption, Darabont was forced to snip the film to an appropriate length. But, this time round, he had the rights to the final cut and the film has been criticised as being too long.
But then, can you cut Citizen Kane? What you'll end up with is Warner Bros's unforgivable slaughter of Orson Welles, The Magnificent Ambersons or Touch of Evil. No one would dare snip Gone With The Wind or Lawrence Of Arabia or Dr Zhivago or Titianic.
A good long story should remain a good long story. The Green Mile succeeds because it follows the glorious tradition of story telling. It touches the heart because the reality is that for everything in our lives, we pay a price. There is a price we pay for being bad and a price we pay for being good. Funny how the devil manages to cash in the chips either way.
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