EDITORIAL: What Took You So Long?: ‘The Green Mile’

The Green Mile

Whenever a movie has a runtime of over 2 hours, I heavily debate whether or not I’ll want to watch it. The Green Mile runs just over 3 hours and the only time I ever recall watching a movie that long was during a history of motion pictures class that I took one summer in high school.

The Green Mile is an adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name. The novel was actually released as a serialized story comprised of six books. I remember reading them years ago, possibly earlier than I should have been reading Stephen King novels. I recall enjoying them but was fuzzy on the details going into the film.

I’d always heard great things about The Green Mile and after watching the film, I completely understand why. It’s hands down a fantastic adaptation and possibly one of the best movies I’ve seen (I’ve never really sat down to think about a favorite movies list). Tom Hanks as Paul Edgecomb and Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey really make the film work. Their moments together on screen were stunning every single time. The supporting cast was great, too, but without these two, I don’t think the film would have worked nearly as well as it does.

As the story goes on, we learn that John Coffey is an innocent man on death row. Since the story takes place in the 30s, the justice system wasn’t what it is today and racial discrimination was absolutely a factor in Coffey’s conviction. The guards all end up feeling some sort of connection to Coffey, but Edgecomb is the one who reaped the benefits of his powers when Coffey rid him of his urinary tract infection.

Doug Hutchison, who played Percy Wetmore, put on one of those performances where you just can’t stand the character from beginning to end. David Morse, who plays Brutus “Brutal” Howell, gave a significant performance, too. Despite the nickname, he and Edgecomb both did their best to keep the men on death row calm.

Everything about this movie came together well for the finished product. Despite the film being almost 20 years old now, it stands up to the test of time. It helps that the story is one huge flashback, too. Older Paul Edgecomb starts telling the story in a nursing home and the movie comes full circle to end with him finishing the story.

Let’s not forget about Mr. Jingles, either. He’s the little mouse that keeps popping up on death row. Eduard Delacroix (played by Michael Jeter) befriends the mouse, but Percy makes it his mission to kill the mouse. That happens to be just another reason to hate Percy in this film (it’s fantastic when the other guards toss him in the straight jacket and lock him in a room). Thankfully, John Coffey revives the mouse and the big reveal at the nursing home is that Paul is 108 years old and Mr. Jingles is still alive and has his little cigar box. It’s a touching moment in what is otherwise a sad story.

The Green Mile tells a story that’s powerful beyond John Coffey’s ability. It isn’t even his ability to take the bad away from people that makes this film great. Instead, it’s the personalities behind these characters. John Coffey’s story will break your heart and it’s utterly amazing at the same time. If for whatever reason you haven’t seen this movie, just do it now. I’m still in disbelief that it took me so long to watch such a wonderful film.