Friday Review – The Green Mile (Book and Film)

09/07/2010 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

The Green Mile – By Stephen King

Name: The Green Mile

Author: Stephen King

Certificate: Film = 15  Book= mature

DT’s Rating: 10/10

After almost 3 years of barley reading any proper fiction as I’ve been reading and researching like the clappers all non-fiction history books for my course, I finally managed to find time to get back into reading. Naturally, I turned to one of my favourite writers – Stephen King. The man’s a legend and,apart from Salem’s Lot, I’ve never read a bad book by him and ,having seen ‘The Green Mile’ film and added it to my list of all time favourites, I knew that the novel which it was inspired by would be a cracker.

And it was.

The story follows Paul Edgecombe, first starting out as an elderly man in a old people’s home writing his memoirs of his life as a Death-row prison officer on the ‘Green Mile’ (so named because of the green linoleum floor that leads between the cells and off to ‘old sparky’ the electric chair) and follows his experiences with the remarkable prisoner – the huge black man named John Coffey (‘like the drink only not spelt the same’) who has been arrested for the rape and murder of twin girls. It soon becomes apparent that John is far more than he seems.

As ever with Stephen King, the supernatural is weaved excellently with the normal, thus grounding it in extreme realism. It’s written beautifully, providing a very realistic and insightful commentary on humanity as a whole and how people work. Each character is believable, flawed and yet with good parts – each an individual well rendered – no cardboard cut outs here. There is drama without melodrama and, while it’s technically a thriller, and while it has the supernatural, the main villains are normal people you could meet on the street, fighting over pettiness, cruelty and selfishness like anyone in the real world, and are darker and more frightening because of it.  for example, the ‘bad guy’ in the nursing home I found especially unsettling, which was heightened by how he struck parallels with the ‘bad guy’ in the memoirs. Similarly, the bravery and subtlety of what makes the ‘good guys’ good is done with such a modesty that it is again more real, and more emotionally touching. The story if funny in some places, tragic in others, and poignant in others without being preachy.

And I tell you, no other book will make you care so much about the fate of a single mouse either.

Still, I can’t say much more than that without ruining it to a degree. Just take it from me that it’s excellent – easy one of Stephen King’s best, and definitely a fantastic novel.

Now for the movie. I saw the 1999 ‘The Green Mile’ film before I read the book – and it struck me as one of the best and most poignant films I’ve seen. Of course, the majority of this is from the excellent story, which the film takes great care to follow to the letter, but for necessary emissions or simplifications (eg  the final fate of Paul’s wife is omitted).

What really makes the film is the casting which was, in my opinion, just perfect. Tom Hanks is an amazing actor, and he handled Paul Edgecombe brilliantly, acting the character’s goodness, his version of dignity and humor, uncertainty and (heck) even his urinary infection perfectly – making him jump off the page. Doug Hutchingson does an amazing job of the ‘bad guy’ of Percy Whetmore, getting his young, clingy, cruel, insecure ‘I-have-connections’ nastiness down to a T. Also David Morse does a very good job of Brutus Howell, even if the character is secondary to the main ones, conveying his quiet kind dignity perfectly. As for the inmates, Sam Rockwell as ‘Wild Bill’ Wharton -the main villain – is perfectly unsettling and crazy as a genuine psychopath, and Micheal Jeter does a good turn as Delacriox. Finally the talented Michael Clark Duncan does a perfect act of John Coffey that practically destroys your heartstrings. And James Cromwell takes up his typecast role of prison Wardon as Hal Mores – but he’s typecast because he does it well.

In short – a stunning film from a stunning book.



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