Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 5/8/00
The Green Mile
1999 (2000) - Warner Bros.
review by Todd Doogan and
Bill Hunt of The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Specs and Features
188 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced,
single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:39:16 in chapter
29), Snapper case packaging, Walking the
Mile featurette, theatrical trailer, production notes,
cast & crew bios, animated film-themed menu screens with music
and sound effects, scene access (53 chapters), languages: English
(DD 5.1), subtitles: English & French, Closed Captioned
"I tried to stop
it, but it was too late. I couldn't take it back"
1999 was a good year for movies. Plenty of watchable stuff went
through the pipe to capped off a great decade of film. The
Green Mile was definitely one of the better films, and
given its pedigree, it would have to be. Frank Darabont,
writer/director of the sleeper masterpiece The
Shawshank Redemption helmed, and Tom Hanks lead a pack of
incredibly talented character actors including Michael Clarke
Duncan, who wowed audiences across the world. The film even had some
incredible special effects, that had as much power to amuse as they
did to repulse. The story itself, based on Stephen King's serial
novel homage to Charles Dickens, cried out to be made into a film.
Ironically, Darabont's last film was also based on a King prison
story: Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank
Redemption. All the pieces fit together, and the result
was cinema magic. Love, death and a CGI mouse.
The Green Mile is about many
things, but mostly it's about a man named John Coffey - "like
the drink, only not spelled the same." John (Duncan) is a hulk
of a man who has just been brought into custody for the murder of
two little girls. He was found holding their tiny dead bodies by a
river, crying and slathered in their blood. Sentenced to die for the
crime, John is brought to death row in a Louisiana prison. The
floors and walls are covered in a lime green tile, thus the nickname
christened upon the corridor - the "green mile". The
person in charge of the mile is Paul Edgecomb (Hanks), a kind and
fair man who has a problem of his own - he's got himself a doozy of
a bladder infection. He and his fellow guards, Brutus (David Morse),
Dean (Barry Pepper), Harry (Jeffrey DeMunn) and Percy (Doug
Hutchison) watch over an ever-rotating round of convicts headed for
old "Sparky". Their job is to feed them, care for them and
when the time comes, kill them. Most of them try to make the job as
humane as possible, but at last one finds perverse joy in other
When Coffey is brought in, Paul can tell that something is
different about him. He has a gentle kindness and child-like quality
about him that no other prisoner has had before. He's even afraid of
the dark. Paul starts to investigate the charges against Coffey in
his spare time, to determine on his own whether or not his sentence
is deserved. But if Coffey isn't guilty, then who is? The three-hour
journey to answer that question will surprise and move you.
The Green Mile is a well-built
story, starting with the foundation built by King and Darabont's
superb screen adaptation. Add to that the first-rate work of a
talented team of performers and craftsmen, and The
Green Mile ends up an incredible film that captivates its
audience. The acting is wonderful all around. Besides the obvious
ones (Hanks and Duncan), there are knockout performances by
Hutchison as Percy and Sam Rockwell as "Wild Bill" - the
latter stands out in our minds as one of the best of the year. You
also can't say enough about the understated glory that is David
Morse. Whatever he's in, you can be sure that we'll watch.
The Green Mile is long - three
hours and eight minutes - and you do feel it. Some would complain
(and have) that the length hurts the film - that there's really only
two hours worth of story in this movie. We don't agree with that.
This is the type of story that isn't supposed to be "told"
per se, rather it should be experienced. It should be reveled or
unfolded to its audience at its own pace. Just about everything we
see on screen is important and useful in some way. You really get to
see these people grow and change during the course of this film. In
the end, we think you'll appreciate the length.
The DVD version of The Green Mile
looks and sounds wonderful. The film has been transferred in
anamorphic widescreen, and the picture quality is really
exceptional. There are minor problems, notably the occasional NTSC
artifact, like moiré or slight ghosting on edges, but they
don't detract at all from the things this transfer has going for it.
The color is outstanding - accurate and richly hued. This is a warm
film, and you'll see that in the "magic hour" color palate
this film often exhibits. The contrast is equally good, with plenty
of detail still visible in the darker picture areas. It's also very
crisp (but definitely not edgy) looking, with not too much analog
edge-enhancement visible - a nice balance was stuck here.
On the audio side, the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound mix is
every bit as good as the picture and then some. You wouldn't expect
great surround sound for a dialogue-driven film like this, but given
the cell block locale, it's important that the sound mix create just
the right amount of ambience. And this track delivers, with a
terrifically spatial sound environment and just the right amount of
bass when needed. You will hear every footfall coming down the mile,
and when the music swells, it's wonderfully enveloping. Listen to
the audio when Coffey performs his first miracle in chapter 27 -
this is very nice DVD sound. We weren't expecting to be impressed on
this end... but we were nonetheless.
Sadly, we don't get that same fuzzy feeling from the extras on this
disc, because there aren't any. Okay... you do get the film's
theatrical trailer, which looks almost as good as the film in
anamorphic widescreen. And there's a nice 10-minute featurette on
the making of The Green Mile.
The disc packaging calls it a documentary. We think there ought to
be a rule for DVD, that says that a video segment needs to be at
LEAST 20 minutes long before it qualifies as a documentary. Finally,
there's a page of cast & crew bios, the first four of which are
selectable and contain information. That's it.
Now, the film's lengthy running time no doubt was a factor in the
amount of extras that could be included. But not even a commentary
track? And if there wasn't room on this disc, why not make it a two
disc set? All I know is that this
film's official website has a nice set of behind-the-scenes
materials, including an interview with the director, production
sketches, storyboards, bios for every cast member and more. This
should have been included somehow with the DVD. Hell... if Warner
used keep cases instead of Snappers, they could have included much
of this material in a nice booklet. The dearth of supplements here
is extremely disappointing, given that this was a Best Picture
nominee. And one last note - these menus are awful. They're a
digitally-pixelated, animated mess. Warner... go with 1K Studios,
next time. Trust us on this one.
When all is said and done, however, lame menus and an almost
complete lack of satisfying extras can't take away from the pure joy
of experiencing this film. Nor can it diminish the impressive video
and audio quality of this disc. The Green
Mile on DVD absolutely belongs in the collection of every
film fan, special edition or not. And maybe one day, the folks at
Warner will walk the mile again and bring a better basket of goodies