Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The Green Mile (5 Stars)

30 films to watch before you die, #23

One of the marks of a good film is that it always seems shorter than it is. "The Green Mile" runs for three hours, but when the final credits roll it seems like less than two hours have passed.

The film tells several interlocking stories in parallel. It's the story of Paul Edgecomb, a prison officer in 1935 who is living in a retirement home in 1999 at the age of 108. It's the story of John Coffey, a simple-minded prisoner on death row who has miraculous gifts. It's the story of a mouse called Mr. Jangles (or maybe Mr. Jingles, different characters in the film pronounce the name differently). It's also the stories of the prison guard Percy Wetmore and the prisoner Eduard Delacroix.

In a recent post I praised Quentin Tarantino for vividly developing the minor characters in his films. That isn't the case with the director Frank Darabont, but his style is just as good. The major characters (the ones named above) are well developed, but the supporting characters tend to fade into the background, depending on their relative importance. To take two examples, Paul's wife Bonnie appears in scenes as a loving wife, but we learn almost nothing about her except for her devotion to her husband. The prison officer Brutus Howell is in many scenes, but we learn nothing about him at all. Bonnie is in the dim light, figuratively speaking, while Brutus is totally hidden in the shadows. I can't fault this at all. By ignoring the development of the minor characters the main characters become all the more vivid.

Despite writing about this film a few times I've never described the plot. Do I have to? It's one of the films most often repeated on television. Some people might deliberately ignore it because it was written by Stephen King and they don't like horror movies. This isn't a horror film. Stephen King became famous for writing horror stories, but many of his later novels, including this one, are fantasy tales. If that's your reason for not watching it until now, please don't wait any longer.

Frank Darabont has only directed four feature films for the cinema. All four are brilliant, in different ways. Please check out the other three films:

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