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Review by Jay Rittenberg

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Written and Directed By: Frank Darabont
Starring: Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse, Doug Hutchison, Barry Pepper, Bonnie Hunt, James Cromwell, and Jeffrey DeMunn

The next time you're at your local video store, you'll probably notice that this one comes in two VHS tapes. The reason for that is that this epic runs over three hours in length. What stands out on the cover of this home video release (besides Tom Hanks) is the caption that reads, "Over 50 Top Critics Agree: One of The Year's Ten Best Films." Well, we know how the critics felt about this one when it was released in theaters and you might remember that the Academy selected it as one of the five best films of the year, but how will you feel about it? I think that you'll feel that The Green Mile is a well-developed, well-acted, moving picture, the story of a man falsely accused of a heinous crime awaiting execution and the prison guards who come to befriend him.

Director Darabont has produced yet another terrific film adaptation. Special effects and the supernatural play key components in this effort, but they do not overshadow the characters and the story itself. Solid acting across the board, particularly from Tom Hanks and Oscar nominee Michael Clarke Duncan, gives this story the believability and heart it needed.

The story unfolds through a series of flashbacks of the events that took place on the Green Mile (the nickname given to the Louisiana State Penitentiary's death row because of its green floor) in 1935. Narration comes from head guard Paul Edgecomb (Hanks), who remembers the extraordinary event that took place one year and involved him and his fellow guards: Dean (Barry Pepper), Harry (Jeffrey DeMunn), and his best friend Brutus (David Morse). Oh, I almost forgot little Percy (standout Doug Hutchison). He's not the extraordinary event, but the thorn in the side of everyone on the mile. Since his aunt is married to the governor, Percy believes himself to be an untouchable, but he's a slimy creature who likes to push death row inmates around and can't wait to see them die.

The event takes place in the form of John Coffey (Duncan). Here's this gentle giant of a man who's afraid to go to sleep without the light on who's been accused of molesting and brutally killing two little girls. How can this be? How can such a loving and Christ-like man do such a thing? Well, over the course of the next three hours, you discover the truth of what really happened. You'll also discover during this time what a sadistic monster Percy turns out to be. Luckily, for everyone involved, what goes around comes around.

The Green Mile is surely bound to hook you in from the get-go and tap on your emotions. Although not a horror film (what you usually expect from a King adaptation), there are some horrific and thought-provoking moments that revolve around the electric chair and its use - which turns a PG movie into an R. What's even more powerful than some of these graphic scenes is the bond between Paul and John, Paul's unrelenting belief that this man could not have committed what he's been accused of, and the purity and goodness of this gentle giant.

The casting was ideal as every actor made his or her character feel real to us. Headliner Hanks has an uncanny knack (like few other actors) to consistently pick successful scripts, and he continuously plays likeable and morally sturdy characters. While Hanks was his usual standout self, Duncan was actually a step above Hanks with a sweet and touching performance that will surely leave you hunting for tissues by film's end. He clearly demonstrated that he can hold his own against the best in the business and shouldn't be restricted solely to commercial blockbusters such as Armageddon. A well-deserved supporting Oscar nomination, which should continue to open many doors for the big guy in the future.

You may have trouble with either the ending, the length, the spiritual message, the electric chair, or all of the above, but you'll have a hard time not having a strong emotional reaction to it. This heartfelt, emotional drama purposely takes its time, gives you the answers you were craving, and makes you think well after it's ended. The Green Mile is a classic tearjerker of the highest order. It's a film that has its heart in the right place and one that shouldn't be overlooked.

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