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Frank Darabont
Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse, Bonnie Hunt, James Cromwell, Michael Jeter, Graham Greene, Doug Hutchison, Sam Rockwell, Barry Pepper
Writing Credits:
Stephen King (novel), Frank Darabont

Miracles do happen.

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. The brand new Special Edition of The Green Mile includes numerous bonus features.

Box Office:
$60 million.
Opening Weekend
$18.017 million on 2875 screens.
Domestic Gross
$136.801 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 188 min.
Price: $20.98
Release Date: 11/14/2006

• Audio Commentary with Director Frank Darabont
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Michael Clarke Duncan’s Screen Test
• Tom Hanks’ Makeup Tests
• “The Teaser Trailer: A Case Study” Featurette
• Trailers
• Audio Commentary with Director Frank Darabont
• “Walking the Mile: The Making of The Green Mile” Featurette
• “Miracles and Mystery: Creating the Green Mile” Featurette


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Green Mile: Special Edition (1999)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 13, 2006)

The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption share a lot of similarities. Both films were based on stories by Stephen King, both were directed by Frank Darabont, and both take place in prisons. They also go for that kind of uplifting, triumph of the human spirit feel.

One way in which they diverge, however, revolves around the public's initial opinions of the films. When Shawshank hit theaters in 1994, it raised nary a peep from the movie-going public. It grossed a meek $28 million and that was that.

Or was it? The movie generated a new life on home video and has become something of a hit in later years. It generated quite a lot of buzz when it finally came out on DVD in December 1999. Many more people bought this DVD than you'd expect would for a then-five-year-old movie that didn't do much theatrically. Stunningly, Shawshank also ranks second on the all-time "best movies" list as polled by readers of IMDB! Only The Godfather boasts a higher ranking among IMDB patrons.

The Green Mile received a somewhat different reception. It hasn't maintained quite the same kind of following generated by its predecessor, even though it enjoyed much greater success theatrically. The film raked in a tidy $136 million in the US, which is a pretty amazing sum for a three-hour prison movie.

A minor backlash appeared to set in around the time of the Academy Awards, but Mile rebounded and turned into another enduring fan favorite. It doesn’t rival the affection generated by Shawshank, but as its rank at 130th on IMDB shows, it maintains a pretty good following.

As for myself, I rather liked the film. Despite its length - which probably is too long, honestly - I thought it offered an interesting story that was told in a compelling manner. Can the film seem a bit trite or hokey at times? Most definitely. Darabont can be a "lowest common denominator" filmmaker who goes for the obvious emotional response in his work rather than trying to do something unusual. You're not likely to find anything to challenge or surprise you in Mile, and the characters largely appear as vague stereotypes with little to distinguish them.

That said, Mile undeniably offers an entertaining and occasionally moving experience. You may be aware that Darabont is pushing your buttons in an obvious manner, but those buttons are pushed nonetheless, and despite my awareness, I never felt used or manipulated.

I think much of the reason why the film ultimately succeeds comes from its tremendously strong cast. None of these actors provide their best work, but all are completely solid, and the simple fact that the cast has such depth means that virtually all of the roles provide strong and broad portrayals of their characters. From top to bottom, there's not a weak link. Tom Hanks is really the only star in the cast, and his lead performance as prison guard Paul Edgecomb seems like typical Hanks: tastefully understated and effective.

After Hanks, we find a great roster of fine character actors: David Morse, Bonnie Hunt, Michael Jeter, Barry Pepper, James Cromwell, Graham Greene, William Sadler and even Harry Dean Stanton and Gary Sinise in some very small parts. I'd not heard of Doug Hutchison, and I didn't recognize Sam Rockwell when I first saw the flick, but both were very good as the film's main bad guys.

Michael Dean Clarke received the film's only acting Academy Award nomination as child-like convict John Coffey. While I can't say it was unwarranted, since he's quite good in the part, it seemed almost a shame to single out one actor from such a terrific cast. Since Hanks is clearly dominant over the others, Mile isn't a true ensemble piece, but it's pretty close, and it succeeds largely based on the reality these performers add to their roles.

Mile certainly isn't without its flaws. At more than three hours, it's too long, and a few subplots easily could have been lost. I wasn't too wild about the mystical mumbo-jumbo aspects of the film, especially as they create too overt a connection between this story and that of Christ. Nothing against the latter, but such aspirations don't work particularly well here. The film also bops a little too quickly between tragedy and high drama and simple comedy. Throwaway lines quickly undo some of the most emotional scenes, and that alleviates some tension but not in a positive way.

But even with its faults, I still liked The Green Mile. I won't call it a classic, but I think it's on a par with The Shawshank Redemption. It's a solid and well-crafted film that tells a compelling story and usually does so in an entertaining and provocative manner.

Footnote: One thing always bothered me about the movie. Whenever Coffey heals someone, it's always via his mouth except when he cures Edgecombe's urinary infection. At that time he uses his hands. I can't say I was disappointed not to see the logical manner via which Coffey should have treated Edgecombe's problem, but it does seem inconsistent. Guess they wanted to avoid that NC-17!

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus A-

The Green Mile appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As one might expect, the film offered a satisfying viewing experience.

Sharpness seemed consistently well-defined and clear, with almost no instances of any softness to mar the presentation. A few wide shots were just a smidgen on the fuzzy side, but these were minor. The vast majority of the movie presented good delineation. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement appeared to be absent. The print itself looked to be completely free from speckles, scratches, hairs or other flaws.

The movie stuck to a fairly subdued palette and generally presented a golden tone that imbued a vaguely "period" look to the piece. In any case, colors appeared accurate and solid with no issues related to them. Black levels seemed nicely deep and dark but not muddy, and shadow detail looked appropriately heavy but not overly opaque. Mile lacked the visual variety to make it a demonstration-worthy title, but the picture appeared very strong nonetheless.

Also quite positive was the film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Mile wasn't exactly an audio extravaganza, but the mix worked nicely to bolster the action onscreen. The soundfield appeared well-localized overall. Dialogue stuck pretty closely to the center, but effects popped up in their correct spatial zones, and the music spread smoothly to all the channels. The best moments clearly occurred when the track moves into a more active realm, generally during the execution scenes, which featured some very good use of all five speakers. However, even during the many quieter moments, the audio surrounded me nicely with a realistic environment.

Sound quality seemed consistently solid. Dialogue always appeared warm and natural with no intelligibility issues. Effects were clear and realistic, and music seemed bright and bold. Both of the latter aspects also featured some very strong bass at appropriate moments. The soundtrack to Mile did what it needs to do and did it well. As with the picture, it may not be the piece you'll use to show off your system, but it's very well done.

How did the picture and audio of this 2006 release compare to those of the original 2000 DVD? Both discs presented similar soundtracks, but the 2006 package offered noticeably strong visuals. The 2000 set packed more than 200 minutes of video onto one disc, and that resulted in some compression problems. With more “real estate” available, the 2006 version enjoyed a significantly tighter, clearer image. This was a clear visual upgrade.

While the 2000 DVD included only a few extras, this new special edition expands on those. Spread across both discs, we get an audio commentary with director Frank Darabont. He offers a running, screen-specific chat. Darabont discusses how he came onto the project, story, script and adaptation issues, cast and crew, camerawork and design choices, sets and locations, music and song selections, working with animals, effects and technical elements, costumes, and other aspects of the production. Along with all the details, we find some fun bits such as a reference to Darabont’s location scout encounter with John Frankenheimer and the use of the “Coffey Highway” to make Michael Clarke Duncan look even taller than his actual 6-5.

Darabont proves remarkably lively and chatty as he almost never comes up for air. He also makes this an inclusive piece. Along the way, Darabont introduces us to the folks who recorded and produced the commentary, and he lets us know their tasks. He also calls makeup effects artist Greg Nicotero to get some info about that side of things, and toward the end, he checks in with both DVD producer Constantine Nasr and editor Richard Francis-Bruce. Darabont manages to fill all three hours of Mile with consistently useful and entertaining elements. This turns into a terrific track.

On DVD One, we locate two Deleted Scenes. We find “Bitterbuck’s Family Says Goodbye” (1:03) and “Coffey’s Prayer” (2:33). Don’t expect much from “Family”, as it offers only a short silent snippet, whereas “Prayer” gives us a little more of John prior to his execution and is moderately interesting.

We can view these with or without commentary from Darabont. He tells us a few notes about the scenes as well as why he cut them. Though he touches on these issues in his main commentary, he throws out a few more specifics here.

Test material comes next. The disc presents both Michael Clarke Duncan’s Screen Test (8:21) and Tom Hanks’ Makeup Tests (5:26). The former lets us see how Duncan got the role, while the latter shows attempts to make Hanks into “Old Paul”. Both are good additions to the set.

In addition to two trailers for Mile, we discover a featurette. The Teaser Trailer: A Case Study runs six minutes, 44 seconds and includes notes from Darabont, producer David Valdes, and storyboard artist Bill Sienkiewicz. We learn about an unused trailer created for the film and find out why they abandoned it. We also see the rejected ad at the end of this funny and informative clip.

Moving to DVD Two, we begin with Walking the Mile: The Making of The Green Mile, a 25-minute and 25-second featurette. It mixes shots from the set, and interviews. We hear from Darabont, Valdes, author Stephen King, mouse stunt coordinator Boone Narr, visual effects supervisor Charles Gibson, and actors Michael Jeter, Tom Hanks, James Cromwell, Gary Sinise, Bonnie Hunt, David Morse, Doug Hutchison, Michael Clarke Duncan, Jeffrey DeMunn, Barry Pepper, William Sadler and Sam Rockwell. “Walking” examines Darabont’s interest in the project and facets of the original novel, cast, performances and their interactions, Darabont’s work with his actors, set design, creating the Mr. Jingles scenes, and memorable moments.

“Walking” doesn’t shed a tremendous amount of light on the production, but it’s better than average for a program of its ilk. I can’t say I expect much from this kind of promotional piece, and “Walking” indeed seems rather puffy at times. That said, it gives us a decent look at the production and keeps us interested.

Note that the original DVD included a shorter version of this featurette; this one lasts about 15 minutes longer.

Finally, we get Miracles and Mystery: Creating The Green Mile. This six-part documentary lasts one-hour, 42-minutes and 30-seconds as it features notes from Darabont, Hanks, King, Duncan, Rockwell, Pepper, Morse, DeMunn, Valdes, Hunt, Jeter, Hutchison, Cromwell, Gibson, Narr, novelist and critic Kim Newman, Creepshows: The Illustrated Stephen King Movie Guide author Stephen Jones, artist Berni Wrightson, novelist Peter Straub, author/screenwriter David J. Schow, filmmaker Lawrence Kasdan, writer William Goldman, acting coach Larry Moss, production designer Terence Marsh, director of photography David Tattersall, costume designer Karyn Wagner, special makeup effects supervisor Greg Nicotero, special effects coordinator Darrell Pritchett, mouse trainer Michelle Suffredini and actors Dabbs Greer, Brent Briscoe and Patricia Clarkson.

“Miracles” starts with a look at Stephen King and his work over the years as well as the development of Mile as a text. From there we go to Darabont’s interest in Mile and the adaptation of the story, casting and performances, and the atmosphere on the set. For the last few sections, we dig into set and costume design, locations and cinematography, various forms of effects, and executing the Mr. Jingles scenes.

The greatest problem with “Miracles” isn’t the fault of those who made it. The show becomes redundant on more than a few occasions simply because Darabont covered so much of the same territory in his commentary. He explores many of the same issues, so inevitably “Miracles” gets repetitive at times.

However, I can’t blame the folks who made “Miracles” for that, as the documentary’s redundant elements are necessary to tell the story of the film’s creation. It’s not like they can dig into the production and omit the basics, so I won’t gripe about the repetition.

Ignoring that issue, “Miracles” presents a very good documentary. Unsurprisingly, the moments that don’t come from Darabont prove most interesting since they’re the freshest. I particularly like the notes from Duncan and his acting coach about how they accessed the Coffey character, and the footage from the cast’s table read is also a lot of fun. The actors add a lot to the section about their performances, as they toss out many good notes. We also find intriguing details about the “green mile” floor itself, locations, and other useful production bits. “Miracles” stands as a solid little examination of the flick.

The Green Mile offers an entertaining little fable. It takes too long to get to its conclusion and follows too many dead ends along the way, but I still feel that it works well as a whole, largely due to the presence of a fine cast. The DVD itself offers excellent picture and sound as well as a nice collection of extras.

Mile definitely deserves your attention, and if you don’t own the prior DVD, go for this special edition. It also offers a good upgrade for those who do possess the original disc. In addition to all the new extras, the 2006 transfer seemed considerably sharper and clearer. This release is a solid piece of work.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5714 Stars Number of Votes: 35
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main