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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Green Mile (1999)

The Green Mile is an incredible movie, at one level set in the depths of human despair (where a person can be convicted for a crime to a large degree because he is of an oppressed race (an African-American) in the depths of the American South in 1935 (as racially discriminating a society as possible), and at another level, about the goodness in a person and the gifts that he imparts. The movie is based on a Stephen King novel (published in 1996), and touches on supernatural and paranormal settings in an American prison based on the arrival of Coffey, a convicted murderer waiting on death row.
The movie is set entirely in flashback, with the recounting of the whole tale done in flashback, with one exception, a stunning revelation in the present by the main speaker (currently in a nursing home). The movie was nominated for 4 Academy awards,
* Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role — Michael Clarke Duncan
* Best Picture — David Valdes, Frank Darabont
* Best Sound Mixing — Robert J. Litt, Elliot Tyson, Michael Herbick, Willie D. Burton
* Best Adapted Screenplay — Frank Darabont

The Green Mile (1999)
However, the movie did not win any of the awards that it was nominated for. It did win other awards, just not the Oscars. One thinks that was a miss. The Green Mile may feel slow to some, but like the director Frank Darabont's earlier Stephen King adaptation, The Shahshank Redemption, the movie is very well adapted from the book, and builds up the whole concept of life in the prison, and then introduces the pivotal character, the Black condemned prisoner on Death Row. Most people will not fail to be moved by this film, by the emotions, and by the state of affairs in which a person is condemned to die even when you know that he is innocent because that is the way things used to happen at that time.
The Green Mile refers to the last stretch of green linoleum that condemned prisoners on death row had to walk before they met their fate on 'Old Sparky', the electric chair used for executions. Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks), an elderly man in a nursing home, comes in contact with a sadistic employee, which eventually causes him to remember an equally horrible employee (in 1935) along with the great giant Coffey, executed despite being innocent.
Paul is the corrections officer incharge of Death Row inmates and it is his responsibility to take a prisoner on the 'Green Mile' - the last trip of the prisoners. His life takes a turn when a new prisoner arrives. John Coffey (a great role by Michael Clarke Duncan), a great black giant standing 7 foot tall has been convicted of raping and murdering 2 young white girls and is now in Death Role, awaiting his turn with Old Sparky. Soon, they discover something strange about this slow and gentle giant. He is able to display great healing powers by bringing a mouse (Mr. Jingles) back from the dead, cures the urinary infection of Paul, and for good measure, also saves the tumour struck wife of the warden, Hal Moores (James Cromwell). He cannot explain what he does, but he has some great powers.
Into this mixture arrives a sadistic guard, Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison). He is related to the governor, and is able to be sadistic and obnoxious due to this connection. Nobody can control his sadism and ill-treatment of prisoners due to his connections, but a chance comes when a new prisoner William Wharton (Sam Rockwell) arrives. Coffey comes into contact with him, and realizes that William was the actual killer of the 2 girls for which Coffey is on death row. He then displays his powers, getting Wetmore to shoot William, and then to lapse into a catatonic state from which he never recovers. When Paul asks Coffey about all this, he gets shown a vision by Coffey of what actually happened, something that Paul is not able to endure.
However, in spite of his innocence, Coffey is executed in the prison; but this is not the end. Paul, due to physical contact with Coffey, has gained mightily in terms of a life-span. The mouse Mr. Jingles, whom Coffey brought back, is still alive after 50 years, so Paul can only wonder what will happen to his life span. He is already 108 years as of now (as he explains), has outlived his friends and relatives, and feels that the burden of life (which will go on and on - his own Green Mile) is a punishment for having watched an innocent man executed.


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