Undoubtedly one of the darkest subjects one could put on film, The Green Mile will lead you into unexpected territory with deep, heart-wrenching meaning entwined with appropriate comedy in a brilliant piece of work by Frank Darabont. Admittedly, as highly acclaimed as the director’s previous works has been, this is his first movie that I have seen – but I definitely want more. Between excellent casting, fantastic writing, and perfect sets that never compromises the feeling that you are indeed back in the 1930’s.
Miracles happen in unexpected places, even on death row at Cold Mountain Penitentiary. There John Coffey, a prisoner with supernatural powers, brings a sense of spirit and humanity to his guards and fellow inmates. Tom Hanks leads a stellar cast (including Michael Clarke Duncan as Coffey) in this emotional, uplifting story of guards and captives; husbands and wives; prisoners and a remarkable mouse named Mr. Jingles; and, on another level, of a moviemaker and his source. Frank Darabont returns after his 1994 directorial debut The Shawshank Redemption to adapt another Stephen King tale into a crowd-pleasing entertainment nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Considering the setting of the movie, you know what to expect – but you don’t. The range of characters that brings this movie to life will keep you on the edge of your seat to the very end, despite the 3 hour runtime. As each unfortunate sentencing is carried out, you will suddenly find yourself captivated in the moment as the time draws closer – especially for the unfortunate Eduard Delacroix, played by Michael Jeter.
Of course, being in Tom Hanks’ prime, he delivers his character incredibly well, but he hardly shines on his own. This isn’t a negative against Hanks, but rather a positive towards the excellent casting for the rest of the characters. David Morse, Jeffrey Dumann, Barry Pepper all bring forth their a-game to compliment Hanks’ character perfectly as the guards of the titular setting. Even Dough Hutchison is noteworthy for his talented portrayal of the sniveling, insufferable weasel Percy Wetmore. However, the most prominent casting in this is the moderately underrated Michael Clarke Duncan in his role as John Coffey; a gentle behemoth with an ambiguous existence that never lets the anticipation lift with this wholly unpredictable role.
Despite the dark, dramatic, ambiguous plot, it’s laden with spontaneous comedic moments that never feel inappropriate, especially with the characters all interacting with each other on a level that feels completely natural. If you have somehow missed this movie in all the years this has been out, then it’s Highly Recommended that you give this a viewing. If you have already seen it, then I still recommend yet another viewing to take in all of the crisp details of the soft, yet beautiful cinematography that has been enhanced with the Blu-ray release.
As with Darabont’s Shawshank Redemption, Warner has given The Green Mile the digi-book treatment, with a beautiful reflective foil cover and a great thirty-four page booklet with images and comments on the film as well as profiles of the major actors involved in the film. It’s a fantastic looking package and it really does the movie justice with this great representation. The cover and disc art is identical to the two-disc DVD release from a few years back, but it certainly doesn’t hurt the set any—the poster is still beautiful looking and the added foil reflection helps it come alive. Menus are simple and easy to navigate, although since this is a Warner movie the film auto-starts before you even see the menus.
There is plenty about this VC-1 encoded transfer that exudes life, as it replicates the 1930s look and feel remarkably well. Colors are always a warm brown hue and make the prison environment surprisingly welcoming for what it is. Detail is sharp, although there is an abundance of film grain; not that that’s really a detraction as it really does add to the film. It’s not overwhelming the picture by any means, but it does make itself known in quite a few scenes. Everything here looks pretty fantastic without any visible compression and the only times colors seem out of place is when a notably vibrant one (ala bright reds or yellow) pops itself onto the screen. But that may have been what Darabont was going for anyway.
Audio is a TrueHD 5.1 mix and I assumed that this film, which is relatively quiet for its three hour plus run time, wouldn’t make much of a fuss in the surrounds but I was pleasantly proven wrong. The 5.1 mix crept into the surrounds very subtly, with just a hint of rain and environmental sound effects. And it really stayed that way for the most part. There were times when the subwoofer woke up to blast us out of our seats, but that’s really just for the films climax. The score by Thomas Newman did come alive in all channels, however, and seeing as it is one of the most moving elements of the film I was happy to hear that it was paid proper attention to. Overall the technical presentation of this Blu-ray release is fantastic and one that will definitely not disappoint.
Extras are all ported over from the aforementioned 2-disc DVD release, so if you own that then you got nothing new to see here. But all in all:
Commentary by Writer/Director Frank Darabont
Additional Scenes (3:38, SD)
Walking the Mile: The Making of The Green Mile Documentary (25:30, SD)
Miracles and Mystery: Creating The Green Mile Featurette Gallery (1:42:54, SD)
Tom Hanks Makeup Tests (5:30, SD)
Michael Clarke Duncan Screen Test (8:26, SD)
The Teaser Trailer: A Case Study (4:47, SD)
Theatrical Trailers – Teaser (1:58), Theatrical Trailer (2:23)
The list looks short, but then you stumble onto the near two-hour long featurette mashup that covers pretty much every little aspect and tidbit of the film. As if that wasn’t enough you have the commentary with Darabont which just further helps this roster of extras stand out. Of course if you own the DVD already then it’s nothing new, but it’s still a solid package no matter which way you cut it. Highly Recommended.
The Green Mile is now available on Blu-ray.
Movie review by Andrew
Blu-ray review by Zach Demeter