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review added: 5/8/00



The Green Mile
1999 (2000) - Warner Bros.

review by Todd Doogan and Bill Hunt of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Green Mile Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A-/D+

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 people's pain.

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 with 'em.

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com




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