Paul Edgecomb: “They usually call death row the Last Mile, but we called ours the Green Mile, because the floor was the color of faded limes. We had the electric chair then. Old Sparky, we called it. I’ve lived a lot of years, Ellie, but 1935 takes the prize. That was the year I had the worst urinary infection of my life. That was also the year of John Coffey and the two dead girls”
It’s 1999, and an elderly Paul Edgecomb lives in a nursing home in Louisiana. He is very popular with his fellow home members and with the staff. He takes walks during the day, going somewhere specific each time.
One night, Paul and his elderly friends are watching the movie Top Hat. His friend Elaine notices he is distressed and when she asks Paul what the matter is, he tells her the film reminds him of a time when he was in charge of death row inmates at the Cold Mountain Penitentiary in 1935.
Paul (Tom Hanks) thinks back to 1935, where he is working with his fellow prison guards Brutus “Brutal” Howell (David Morse), Harry Terwillinger (Jeffrey DeMunn), Dean Stanton (Barry Pepper) and Percy Whitmore (Doug Hutchinson). Paul, Brutus, Harry and Dean get along fine, but they dislike Percy who is childish and cruel and who only works in the ward because of family connections and his wish to see someone die on the electric chair.
John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) arrives at the prison. He is huge and intimidating but his despite his size he is shy, soft spoken, very innocent and kind. Coffey is convicted for raping and killing two young sisters but his guilt is immediately questionable.
John Coffey: “Do you leave a light on after bedtime? Because I get a little scared in the dark sometimes. If it’s a strange place.”
Paul is suffering from an UTI and he is in extreme pain all the time. One morning, after an excruciating urinating session, Paul is determined to go to the doctor, much to his wife’s relief. Before he is able to do that, Coffey supernaturally cures Paul. Paul is shocked by this immense power. He comes to the conclusion that Coffey can cure the wife of Warden Hal Moores (James Cromwell), who is dying of a brain tumour. They manage to sneak Coffey out of prison by putting Percy into the isolation room, something he richly deserves for the part he played in the botched execution of Eduard Delacroix (Michael Jeter), another inmate that got the taste of Percy’s cruelty a bit too often. Delacroix gives the Mile some entertainment by forming a bond with a Mouse and teaching it tricks. Delacroix is distraught when Percy kills it, but Coffey makes it alive again by his spectacular powers.
“Wild Bill” Wharton (Sam Rockwell), a psychopathic inmate is scheduled for arrival at the Cold Mountain Penitentiary. Coffey warns Paul of him, and he is proven to be correct when Wharton attacks the guards seconds after entering the building. They restrain him, but it is the first of many incidents involving Wharton. He is sent into isolation a few times, but he gets himself into trouble constantly. He touches Coffey and with his powers Coffey sees that it is Wharton who raped and killed the girls he is being sent to execution for. Coffey “releases” the tumour he took from Mrs. Moores (Patricia Clarkson) into Percy, making him kill Wharton and then lapse into a catatonic state.
Paul knows that nothing he can do will save Coffey’s life because they have no hard evidence. He asks Coffey what to do and Coffey’s answer surprises him. Coffey says that he wants to die, that living in such a hateful world is too much for him and that he is tired of it all. Coffey gets his execution, and the wardens have a difficult time controlling their emotions.
Back in 1999, Paul tells Elaine that he has lived such a long life because of Coffey curing his UTI, somehow giving him more life as well. He shows Elaine Delacroix mouse, who is still living years later because Coffey had restored him to full health as well. He tells Elaine that he knows he will die someday, but thinks his long life is punishment because he didn’t save Coffey back in 1935.
While visiting Zoë, I casually mentioned (now I realize in great error) that I’ve never seen The Green Mile. Cue Zoë grasping for breath, shocked and a bit teary eyed. So we sat down to watch it.
I went in mostly blind. I knew something about death row and some sadist and that it is based on a Stephen King novel, but that was it. People love this movie so I knew it had a chance to be really good, but I have to say I was expecting violence and swearing and generally not my type of thing.
HOW WRONG CAN ONE PERSON BE?!
It was AMAZING. Like laugh out of your tummy amazing, be sad and angry (that FUCKING TOOL PERCY WETMORE) and confused. It was so good I wanted to re-watch it again and I can say that I definitely will.
The tool, Percy Whitmore
I have to say I thought the movie could have worked just as well without the supernatural element but there was just enough in it to make it interesting without making it completely unrealistic. The supernatural element is thrown upon the watcher, so suddenly; it comes as a massive surprise. That there was well done because I just sat there thinking this is a strangely nice story about death row and then it was like BAM, HELLO SUPERPOWERS. The story was excellently developed and clear and I never felt that the movie was too long – an exceptional for feat for a three hour film. I also thought the uniforms were so beautifully cut and done – it made every officer just look that much more authoritative (except that tool Percy Whitmore). I found Coffey’s execution one of the most emotional scenes I have ever witnessed. It was wrenching to experience everyone’s pain and how no one wanted Coffey to die at the end.
I’ve always thought that Tom Hanks is an exceptional actor and he just showed it constantly in here. He did an amazing job as Paul Edgecomb and how he was someone in power who actually thought about the repercussions of his job and was determined to do it with dignity. He was most powerful when he showed how he would always treat inmates with dignity, especially John Coffey, and always inexplicably Wild Bill. I loved how he realised when it was time to send someone to isolation and when it could be prevented.
The portrayal Michael Clarke Duncan gives as John Coffey is too good for me to put into words. He really looked huge, especially when compared to Brutus, but he was a gentle giant. Even from the start I couldn’t get how he murdered those two blonde girls. I found him so sad. Coffey was a huge, hulking figure that didn’t wear any shoes. He was so tender-hearted about everything and I found it endearing how he called Edgecomb “boss”. He also just knew Percy Whitmore was a cruel, vile man that had absolutely no redeeming qualities in him and THAT I loved.
Brutus “Brutal” Howell
This guy was way too entertaining as well. I liked that how he, despite his size, was the person after Edgecomb who treated the inmates with the most respect and that he was the clear leader after Edgecomb. His friendship with Edgecomb and the entertaining they found in a lot of things together in prison was so sweet and funny.
Another mention on excellent acting should be given to Sam Rockwell who played the psychotic murdered “Wild Bill” Wharton. He freaked the hell out of me and I have to say that so many of the laughs I got out of here came from him. That scene where he spits the chocolate in Brutus’s face was hilarious and I admired the hell out of Brutus for not losing his temper there and then.
Okay, the last have to say about the characters involves Percy Whitmore, played by Doug Hutchinson. He is, without a doubt, in the most hated characters list ever (if there isn’t such a list, there should be). He is on the same level as Umbridge, who is on the very top of the list. I felt such animosity towards him. Were it possible, I would have climbed through the screen to kick him. He is everything I despise in some men – men who love to beat down on people either smaller or in lesser positions than them, men who are cruel and enjoy brutality and men who love throwing their connections around. In fairness to Hutchinson, he played the part perfectly and was just as well cast as the rest of the group.
I obviously really liked this and would recommend it to just about everyone. It is an excellent story without a lot of violence and it is gripping from the start.
Have you seen it? What did you think?