Monday, 8 February 2016

I've Just Seen: The Green Mile (1999)

The Green Mile (1999)

Director: Frank Darabont

My sister loves Tom Hanks (or Otm Shank as she refers to him), and I too am partial to his presence on screen. Comparisons are always made between Hanks and Jimmy Stewart, as they often portray characters defined by their decency and all-American-ness. That decency is on display in The Green Mile, with Hanks playing prison warden Paul Edgecomb, who worked on death row at a prison during the Great Depression.

The film is a strange blend of violence, magic and sentiment, not all of which worked together. Michael Clarke Duncan is very good as mysterious John Coffey, though unfortunately his character is a textbook example of the 'magical Negro', a black character who has powers that, in the story, are used to help the white protagonists. The plot casts Coffey as a Christ-like person, who heals people and absorbs the evil of others.

The violence is rather confronting, and the scene of execution by electric chair, with a crucial step missing, is horrible and feels very realistic. The scene fully plays out the time it takes for the man to die, which is long and agonising. The whole film is really about suffering, both through illness, others' actions, and even mental pain (though this is the least explored).

I am not really sure how I feel about the film. It is surprising, its narrative moving in ways you don't expect, yet it also employs a few problematic tropes. The performances are all good, and the cinematography is good: it is a very handsome production. It is good, but I am not sure I will watch it again.


  1. It's an interesting film. Been so long since I've seen it, but as I recall this was one of the inspirations for the phrase "magic negro." I think I need to watch it again.

    1. There is a lot in it, it would probably be a good re-watch.