Starring: Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan
Director: Frank Darabont
THE Green Mile concerns itself with metaphysics from the beginning to end.
John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) is sentenced to the electric chair in a Tennessee jail in 1935 for the rape and murder of two young girls. He is a huge, gentle man and the generally humane guards on death row know that this man is different.
The senior guard, Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks), befriends Coffey and as they prepare to face Coffey’s execution Edgecomb becomes aware of Coffey’s spiritual gifts for physical healing, knowledge and the discernment of spirits.
The Green Mile is about mysticism, transcendence and the battle in this world between good and evil. I am always careful in attributing the term “Christ figure” to central characters of films – in so many instances the life, death and resurrection motif is at the heart of all narratives.
Stephen King’s literary interest in good and evil mysticism is legendary, and in this adaptation by Frank Darabout, there is no question that John Coffey is a Christ figure, even down to his initials.
The Green Mile is a moving and powerful film and it could have been a masterpiece. If only Darabount had been more ruthless with the material and cut the long character studies (we get the idea of who Edgecomb and Coffey are very quickly), and he lost at least 20 minutes of the mouse hunt, the film would be tighter, shorter and more arresting.