November 28, 2019
The Green Mile (1999)
Grade: 59/100

Director: Frank Darabont
Stars: Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, Doug Hutchison

What it's about. Set primarily in 1935 Louisiana, with a few scenes set in the 1990s. Tom Hanks is the top guard in a small death row prison. He reports to warden James Cromwell, who works in an office. Hanks walks the prison hall with fellow guards David Morse, Barry Pepper, Jeffrey DeMunn, and the widely disliked new guy, Doug Hutchison.

Hutchison is such a jerk that Hanks, Morse, and company eventually resort to threats, false imprisonment, and beatings to convince the politically connected Hutchison to go away.

Condemned to die are eccentric Cajun Michael Jeter, American Indian Graham Greene, malicious wild man Sam Rockwell, and soft-spoken man-mountain Michael Clarke Duncan. The latter proves to have magical powers that can heal the critically injured and recently deceased.

Hanks suffers from kidney disease, and is cured by Duncan. Hanks can now make love to his loyal wife, Bonnie Hunt. Duncan later revives Jeter's crushed pet mouse. When Hanks learns that Cromwell's wife Patricia Clarkson is terminally ill with a brain tumor, Hanks, Morse, and DeMunn break Duncan out of prison and take him to Cromwell's house to cure Clarkson.

How others will see it. The Green Mile had many things going for it. Stephen King wrote the source novel. The director and screenwriter was Frank Darabont, whose previous film was the beloved Shawshank Redemption, also based on a King novel. Duncan was well cast for the key role of the supernatural man-mountain death row inmate. And of course, Tom Hanks, perhaps the most admired American actor since John Wayne, played the lead.

So it was not a surprise that The Green Mile was a box office smash, and drew general critical praise. It was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Duncan), and Best Adapted Screenplay. Interestingly, though, BAFTA passed on the film, and the Golden Globes only nominated Duncan.

Thus, one might suspect that American viewers like the movie more than do non-Americans. This is not the case, at, non-U.S. voters grade the film 8.6 out of 10, even higher than the 8.4 bestowed by American voters.

Given the extremely high user ratings, it is to be expected that the user reviews are overwhelming positive. And this is indeed the case. The movie is considered quite the tear-jerker. Yet it is also heart-warming. One person writes "do not live your entire life without seeing this film!!!"

How I felt about it. I disliked Hutchison's character, Percy. It is interesting that the only guard with a Southern accent is by far the biggest jerk. It is unlikely that not even Percy expresses racist statements, when, in 1935, all the guards likely would. And, presumably, they would all sound like Southerners. And they would have contempt for the inmates. They would not befriend them.

It is preposterous that Duncan would be freed from prison even briefly to cure Clarkson. And if he was, Cromwell would have had be let in on the scheme before it was launched. They would have instead brought Clarkson to the death row, even if on a stretcher.

It seems odd that Tom Hanks as an old man (played by Dabbs Greer) is even in a nursing home. He is able to walk for miles every day, and his faculties are intact. It also seems odd that, since he is 108, and must be one of the five oldest living men in the United States, he has not achieved celebrity status within the nursing home.

I will grant that The Green Mile is well made. But it doesn't ring true. Duncan, for example, turns Hutchison into a zombie to kill Rockwell, who is certain to be executed within a few weeks anyway. And such drama with Hanks' kidney disease. There are two scenes where he is writhing on the ground.

But I will say one thing favorable about the movie. It is less overrated than Forrest Gump. And it is no more overrated than The Shawshank Redemption.