About the cast, this is certainly an impressive line-up and most of the principal and secondary characters are on-screen long enough to be memorable for one reason or another.
For the screws, Paul’s colleagues are Brutus “Brutal” Howell (David Morse, Jodie Foster’s father in Contact), Edgecomb’s chief assistant and you can guess how he got the name from his demeanour towards the inmates, old hand Harry Terwilliger (Jeffrey DeMunn), the promising Dean Stanton (Barry Pepper) and the maverick Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison).
In addition to Michael Clarke Duncan, the three other convicted killers are nervy Eduard Delacroix (Michael Jeter) who befriends a mouse before he is sent back to meet his maker, the repentant Native American inmate Arlen Bitterbuck (Graham Greene, most remembered for the Red Indian who befriended Kevin Costner in Dances With Wolves) and mad-as-a-hatter William “Wild Bill” Wharton (Sam Rockwell) who only befriends the voices in his head.
Of the rest of the cast, Coffey has an impressive effect on the lives of Prison Warden Hal Moores (James Cromwell, from Star Trek: First Contact and Deep Impact) and his terminally-ill wife, Melinda (Patricia Clarkson).
The only ones who have too little to do are Jerry Maguire‘s Bonnie Hunt as Paul’s wife Jan and what the press release describes as “the prison’s wiry old trusty” (?), Harry Dean Stanton as Toot-Toot, who appears to “test” out the electric chair for its first run.
So, is the film actually worth going to see? Well, it is and it isn’t, hence the middle-of-the-road score.
As most of the characters play their part, they do it effectively and convincingly and it lays the groundwork for a worthwhile three hours sat on your backside, but what lets it down immeasurably is the script. The film begins as a standard, but realistic prison drama and you expect high standards given the cast and Darabont’s debut film, but the supernatural storyline on which Edgecomb’s and Coffey’s relationship lies is totally unbelievable and I failed to get carried along with that element, which led to the complete lack of chemistry between these two.
That doesn’t bode well because as you start to get edgy in your seat, you realise the length of the film and that you shouldn’t have a drink beforehand. I did… and seeing Tom Hanks straining to syphon the python didn’t do many favours for my bladder either.
As the film plods towards the eventual conclusion of Coffey walking down the “green mile” heading for his destiny, you first get to see the rest of the clan go the same way, bar one who makes a different kind of fatal exit, but there is a final twist of sorts revealed at the end as it returns to the present day and the elder Edgecomb concludes his tale.
Overall, the film left me feeling unsatisfied. It’s a missed opportunity, but I don’t know what I could suggest to improve matters other than to bin King’s novel from day one and choose a different story altogether for the same cast to act out.
Now can someone please explain how this managed to get nominated for four Oscars? They are Best Film, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound and the only one deserved nomination, Best Supporting Actor for Michael Clarke Duncan. If you watch the trailer being shown on TV it will tell you nothing about the film, other than that there’s something going on between him and Hanks and that it causes the prison’s lights to explode(!)
Running time: 190 minutes
Released: March 3rd 2000
Viewed at: Showcase Cinemas, Manchester
Distributor: United International Pictures
Director: Frank Darabont
Producers: Frank Darabont and David Valdes
Screenplay: Frank Darabont (adapted from Stephen King’s screenplay)
Music: Thomas Newman
Paul Edgecomb: Tom Hanks
Brutus “Brutal” Howell: David Morse
John Coffey: Michael Clarke Duncan
Warden Hal Moores: James Cromwell
Melinda: Patricia Clarkson
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.