The Green Mile - Review of a Classic

A brilliant screen adaptation of Stephen King’s famous novel - directed by Frank Darabont, released on December 10, 1999.

Source: Wikipedia

Supernatural, yet looks so natural. The classic movie, The Green Mile is a brilliant screen adaptation of Stephen King’s famous novel and breaking out from the mould. This movie is only slightly dark, with some hopeful and enlightening stories and metaphors. The film adaptation was fashioned after Shawshank, and daresay, the Green Mile outshined its predecessor. The main character, Edgecomb, is a corrections officer on death row. They’ve nicknamed the hallway he works on “Green Mile”. The hall takes on a life of its own, seeing prisoners coming and going, escorted unto death by “Old Sparky”, the electric chair.

There are dark jokes throughout, much conversation, and we get to know each of the characters one by one. The big man, John Coffey (Charles Duncan), has the supernatural-ish ability to heal. We first see this when he awkwardly gropes at Edgecomb to cure his UTI. The second time, he heals Mr Jingles, a mouse whom another prisoner named Del has trained. Mr Jingles can be seen as a metaphor for Edgecomb. This theory sees fruition when the mouse and Edgecomb, who were both healed by Coffey, live to unreasonably old age. But further connections can be made.

First, the relationship between the mouse and Percy, and the relationship between Edgecomb and William Wharton (a deranged inmate), can be seen as a parallel and metaphors for good vs evil. Percy, a psychotic corrections officer, bullies and hurts the rat every chance he gets. He is squishing it at one point, which gives way to Coffey’s second healing. Wharton spits on, terrorises, and messes with the guards, but with Edgecomb especially. Del, the inmate who trains the mouse, is another person on whom Percy’s disapproval falls, and his death is sabotaged and made much more painful by Percy. Coffey acts as a supernatural and altruistic healer/peacemaker and tries to retain order and peace in the mile, though not by ordinary means. He touches Percy and uses his influence to make Percy shoot Wharton. Since Wharton was the real killer in Coffey’s “crime”, and Percy is a scourge to the prison, getting both of the men out of jail was a means to Coffey healing the green mile, not necessarily his way of justice. His views superseded justice, and he made his short life on the green mile more about healing than anything else. Wharton and Percy may be seen as equal bodies of evil on different sides of the law. Though Percy technically did not kill anyone, he made Del’s death more painful and prolonged. Both Percy and Wharton are put in straitjackets, solitary confinement and are approached by Edgecomb for the same issues.

Coffey sees the equal evil in both men and “heals” the prison itself by ridding it of both men. Wharton ended up dead, and Percy ended up in a mental hospital, though as a patient, not as an employee as he had wished. We see this dedication to doing good in the events that led to Coffey’s imprisonment, as it is later revealed that he sees this as his punishment for not being able to save the two girls whose murder he was framed for. The third healing showed Edgecomb felt he needed to use Coffey’s gift and not just watch him waste away in prison. The guards took him to their boss’s house and had Coffey heal his wife, who had inoperable tumours.

Through all this healing, we see Coffey’s willingness to help, but also his submission to the law. He strives for healing more than justice since he is content to go to the electric chair for a crime he did not commit. He saw himself as guilty for simply not being able to save the girls. Likewise, in his later years, Edgecomb sees his long, unnaturally extended life as his consequences for not keeping Coffey, who was a walking miracle. The story is told as a flashback of old man Edgecomb, in a fashion frequented by movies like The Notebook or Titanic. The flashback story was much more poignant here, though, since Mr Jingles was still alive and since Edgecomb had lots of time to reflect on these events. He wasn’t simply reliving his life with his loved ones as much as he was telling a story to a friend.

All these relationships, fights, deaths, and lives can be seen as an overall picture of the battle of good vs evil, in that though Coffey dies, his healing nature and supernatural health are passed on to Edgcomb and Mr Jingles. There are constant themes of justice, penance, and paying the consequences for your actions. Each character who had to pay for what they had done was evil, like Wharton and Percy, and each character who paid for what they had not done, like Edgecomb and Coffey, were seen as the virtuous characters. Whether this movie is a commentary on the human condition, an allegory for good vs evil, or simply an exciting story about a man with healing abilities, it is a fantastic film.

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