The Green Mile – 1999 – movie review
Anyone who has ever been to the pictures with me will tell you that I can’t sit still for very long. I am having a Stephen King phase right now though, and my husband hadn’t seen this one before (I had seen it once before) so we watched disc 1 one evening and disc 2 the next. It’s 189 minutes – that’s too long to sit in front of a screen. But of course it’s based on a Stephen King six-part series, so there’s a lot of story to get in.
I love this kind of story. I’m a fan of magical realism and I’m a fan of what I shall term the “Kingian coincidence” where the characters in many of his stories are linked by a veeeeerrry unlikely chance event as they are towards the end of this story (not saying who – it’s “only” about two and three quarter hours in, though).
In short, it’s about a gentle giant, John Coffey, played by Michael Clarke Duncan, who is found guilty of the brutal rape and murder of two little girls and goes to Death Row, where the head of the guards is played by Tom Hanks. The opening of the story, the situation that gets John Coffey caught and arrested for murder reminds me so much of “Of Mice and Men”, and coincidentally (or not?) one of the main actors from the film adaptation of that (the bloke off CSI: NY) has a small part in this as the careless lawyer who doesn’t really bother to properly represent John Coffey because he is black.
There’s the typical list of characters, of the prisoners; an ashamed an sorrowful one, a comedy one, a bad-to-the-bone one, and John, the one you really don’t think ought to be there. Most of the guards are all-round good chaps, but one of them is a slimy, evil, low-life that makes your skin crawl. You can probably guess that he gets his come-uppance.
In his book “On Writing” his royal highness Stephen King tells us that he had originally named John something beginning with D, but renamed him something beginning with C because he believes if a character has the initials JC (like the world’s most famous fictional character, Jesus Christ) then we will feel sorrier for him. Well, there is doubt from the start that he is guilty, for the viewers, at least. So, a black man in rural 1930s deep south America, accused of murder? I don’t really need the initials to make me feel any sorrier for him.
It’s a beautiful and tragic story. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but King said that while he was writing it, even he didn’t know if John Coffey would die at the end. What a lovely way to write – then he gets to enjoy his own stories as much as we do.