The Green Mile
‘The Green Mile’ is a 1999 American drama film directed by Frank Darabont. The film is set in 1935 during the Great Depression in the United States and the story is told from Paul Edgecomb’s perspective at an old age, about his life as a death row guard and the supernatural events he witnessed. Usually death row was called “the last mile” but they called their death row ‘the green mile’ because “the floors were the colour of faded limes”.
The main characters are Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) and John Coffey (Michael Clark Duncan), a man convicted of murdering two little girl, and has a special gift. It also stars Dabbs Greer, as the old Paul Edgecomb.
The Green Mile has a linear narrative structure which means the film is portrayed in a chronological order; beginning, middle and end. The movie is told in a flashback format in order to help tell the story and to give the audience a clear understanding of the story plot.
For the beginning of the film, the audience have an open mind. As the movie progresses, the audience begin to form a frame for the story, and their suspension of disbelief narrows, limiting what they accept as reasonable and accordant.
Paul Edgecomb is an elderly man living in an assisted-living home. During a rainy day, Paul and other residents are watching TV but one man changes the channel. They settle on a couple dancing to a slow and gentle melody, this makes Paul cry which he then proceeds to walk out of the room. It is only the start so we don’t know why he reacted the way he did, we don’t know his story or his character yet. Later he opens up to a lady friend about his past in regards to being a correction officer at a prison, and it is here that the transition from present to past is shown in a flashback to 1935. The story will now unfold, being told from his perspective and he becomes the narrator.
Our first encounter with Paul Edgecomb, we find that he has a bladder infection but it’s at it’s worse and that same year he meets John Coffey, who’s in for murdering two innocent little girls. For John’s character we immediately think ‘murderer’ because he had the size and strength to kill anyone. He looked like a giant compared to the guards and he had a body that looked as if it was made of bricks, we are able to easily identify him with the role of villain in the beginning.
After John Coffey’s arrival, another new inmate arrives, William “Wild Bill” Wharton (Sam Rockwell). As his character grows, you come to the assumption that Wild Bill is evil. This realization becomes reality as we later find out that he is in for murder and is mentally unstable. He continues to give the guards grief such as pissing on one and spitting pudding into the face of another. This scene acts as the rising action because had Wild Bill not hurt Paul, John wouldn’t have known about his bladder infection.
In the middle, it is here where Paul discovers the power John Coffey possesses. John calls him over despite being in pain, nonetheless Paul builds up the little strength he has left and walks over to John. He grabs Paul by his lower area and our initial reaction is stunned because we don’t know what John is trying to do here, at the same time lights are exploding due to the intense power that John is creating. Evidently John’s special gift has been recognized by not only the audience but Paul too — he heals Paul’s infection. This is the turning point of the film because it changes the direction of how the film will now go from this point on.
The film continues to unfold with Percy killing one of the inmate’s mouse; however, John Coffey revives the mouse which Percy wasn’t too happy about but he doesn’t know anything of John’s power. John also heals Paul’s boss’s wife, who had a brain tumour. Following, he transfers it into Percy for being horrible. This helps us to understand John’s character a little more. Beyond his appearance and simple, naive nature and a deathly fear of the dark, Coffey had exquisite manners: he always addressed people in such a formal way. Paul began to question whether Coffey was truly guilty.
The resolution was when we uncover that John’s not the murderer, he utilized his power to show Paul, revealing to him what truly occurred with the two little girls. During the flashback we realize it’s Wild Bill that murdered the two little girls. We also learn how John got convicted for the murder; he was trying to save the girls but it was too late, they died in his arms. Which leads to the father of the little girls finding John, holding them and covered in their blood. At this point John goes from villain to hero.
A moment of conflict is when the guards know John Coffey is innocent however they don’t have solid evidence to prove it. Another example is when it’s time for John to be executed and they have to strap him up. They have to fight back their emotions and tears but the guards formed a friendship with John, so it was difficult.
Throughout the movie there were sign posts; signs that have a connection to something in the film that later on help us to understand something. This helps us as the audience to keep up with characters and the story plot. For example, the year that Paul’s urine infection was at its worse, that same year he met John Coffey who healed him.
There was also foreshadowing which is when the writer/director gives an advance hint of what’s to come later. For example, in the beginning, Paul cries over the movie ‘Top Hat’ because it was one of the last things that John Coffey wanted to do before being executed.
The reason why I chose this film is I was truly intrigued by John Coffey’s character because despite all the suffering he went through he still had I guess a positive aura to him, he was respectful and kind. He didn’t even fight for himself as he knew he didn’t commit the crime too, that is such a courageous act. This affects me because I have been blamed for something I didn’t do but not so much at the level of John Coffey’s character.