Green Mile (The) AKA Stephen King's Green Mile (The)
R4 - Australia - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: Tom Williams & Noor Razzak (18th December 2006).
The Film

"The Green Mile" was always going to be an ambitious film project; the original novel by Stephen King is so long that cutting it down to a more commercially friendly film length would have excised much of the story's heart. Wisely enough, Frank Darabont- who had already directed one King adaptation, "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994) - barely tried, and "The Green Mile" weighs in at an impressive three hours across two discs. The division is annoying but necessary- for all that it grates to have to get up and swap discs for the last third to a quarter of the film, sacrificing video quality to fit it on one disc would surely have taken too much from the overall experience.
Stephen King can certainly spin a yarn, and the tale of Paul Edgecombe (Tom Hanks), head guard of a death row cell block moves and chills us. "The Green Mile" itself is what the wardens and prisoners call death row, due to the faded lime green colour of the linoleum on the floor. Edgecombe takes his job seriously but compassionately, and when the mysterious giant John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) is imprisoned, the mysterious power he possesses leads Edgecombe through the most important experience of his life. Hanks is perfect in the role, moving and bold, our guide through some experiences that are incredibly hard to handle. The rest of the cast holds up too- Michael Clarke Duncan is a wonderful John Coffey, Bonnie Hunt is sweetness and light as Edgecombe's wife, and strong performances from talented actors like David Morse and James Cromwell ensure that the entire ensemble is up to scratch.
"The Green Mile" is a poignant tale of the best and worst in men, all brought together in one cell block. The beauty of the film is that it all feels epic, due in part to the length and many small incidents leading to a devastating conclusion. Yet the film takes place mostly in one town and has a moderately sized cast, half of whom are locked in cells for most of the story. It is the depth of feeling in the story that makes it epic- a journey through joy and laughter to horror and some of the deepest sadness a movie can provoke. Edgecombe's confession of fear, with which the film ends, is sad and terrifying to consider.
"The Green Mile" is not perfect, but it is the sort of high-quality production that almost anyone can enjoy- though it's certainly not for children. Its few flaws are more a result of the deliberate construction of the story and film- things like fairly overt spiritual symbolism and sometimes less than subtle emotional manipulation. As with most films though, provided one watches it with the intent of enjoying and being moved, there is much good to be had from the film. The main objection one could raise about this film is that it lacks a clear message- what, exactly we are supposed to learn from the film is a mystery. This does, however, allow the ambiguities of the film to support almost any conclusion- as the film is clearly made to appeal to as many people as possible, anyone who watches it can take away whatever message they feel most strongly.
"The Green Mile" is cheesy in places, yes, but it is still an excellent film. Its scenes resonate with emotion, it is full of capable actors and the overall story was written by a best-selling author. Those among us who eschew the mainstream may avoid this film, but it is most likely that "The Green Mile" will appeal to almost anyone who watches it.

Although the DVD packaging states this is Region 4 release it is in fact encoded for Region 2/4/5.

Video

Presented in 1.78:1 this anamorphic widescreen transfer is in a word flawless, spread over two discs this presentation makes the most of the space provided on these discs. The result is a shining effort, the image is sharp and beautifully detailed, it exhibits a depth reserved for HD transfers. The colors are well rendered with skin tones appearing nice and natural, blacks are deep and do not show any noise especially in the shadow detail. I could not find anything wrong with this transfer, it's simply beautiful.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included on this release, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track as well as a German Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 track. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its English soundtrack, and I found that the track is quite aggressive, the dialogue is crisp and distortion free. While the ambient and environmental effects are natural and well mixed throughout the 5.1 space, music displays wonderful separation throughout the 5.1 channels and immerses the viewer without overbearing the dialogue. Directional effects also appear natural and nothing seems out of place. Overall I was rather impressed with this 5.1 track.
Optional subtitles are also included in English, English for the hearing impaired, Danish, Finnish, German, German for the hearing impaired, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish.

Extras

Warner Brothers have released this film as a 2-disc set with a ton of extras that includes an audio commentary, some deleted scenes, test footage, audition footage, two featurettes, a feature-length documentary plus the film's original theatrical trailer. Below is a closer look at these supplements broken down per disc.

DISC ONE:

The special features themselves are, as usual, a mixed bag, but first up is the excellent director's audio commentary which is welcomed. Just as Frank Darabont had a lot to say about "The Shawshank Redemption", his various anecdotes and trivia about the production, casting and direction of the film are worth a listen at least once. Even more impressive is the fact he manages to do this solo, rather than bouncing off other major players in the film's creation.

The deleted scenes included on the first disc are worth looking at, particularly when accompanied by Darabont's optional commentary, he explains why they were left out, the scenes included are:

- "Bitterbuck's Family Says Goodbye" runs for 1 minute 3 seconds, in this dialogue-less scene Arlen Bitterbuck (Graham Greene) shares a moment with his daughter.
- "Coffrey's Prayer" runs for 2 minutes 36 seconds, in this scene Coffey prays before he is about to be executed.

Next are Michael Clarke Duncan's screen test which runs for 8 minutes 26 seconds and also Tom Hanks' makeup tests which runs for 5 minutes 30 seconds. These pre-production scenes of Hanks in old-age makeup and Duncan's screen test are worth one look, but perhaps not worth returning to again (though Duncan's performance is just as impressive as in the film).

Following that is "The Teaser Trailer: A Case Study" featurette which includes the film's original teaser trailer and runs a total of 6 minutes 45 seconds, this feature on the teaser trailers is hard to get into, which is understandable given that it's an interesting treatment of some of the dullest subject matter in the world. If anyone is interested in the construction of a trailer, this could be worth a look.

Rounding out the extras on this disc is also the film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes 17 seconds.

DISC TWO:

Since the film continues on this disc so does the feature-length audio commentary by the film's director Frank Darabont.

"Walking the Mile: The Making of The Green Mile" is a featurette that runs for 25 minutes 31 seconds and appear like an EPK clip, covering the basics of the production from the writing to shooting and release of the film, the clip includes interviews from the various key cast and crew that recall their time making the film as well as footage from the set.

"Miracles and Mystery: Creating The Green Mile" is a 6-part feature-length documentary that runs a total of 102 minutes 54 seconds. You can watch the chapters individually or with a 'play all' function. This is one of the stand out features of this DVD, this is exactly how a making-of documentary should be, it covers just about every aspect of the production and delves deeper than traditional EPK do. This piece features segments that include: "Stephen King: Storyteller", "The Art of Adaptation", "Acting the Mile", "Designing the Mile", "The Magic of the Mile" and "The Tail of Mr. Jingles". Throughout you get to hear from almost everyone involved in the making of the film as well as learn some insights and access that is normally reserved for people on the set.

The features on the second disc are more substantial, though the first, "Walking the Mile", does tend slightly toward the self-promotional. The second, "Miracles and Mystery" is far better, and about four times longer, containing more information than one might have thought possible.

Overall

The technical and special features of "The Green Mile" two disc set are noteworthy. The menus are presented attractively enough, although with one of those annoying montage/intro movies that accompany so many films these days instead of just going to the main menu. The scene selection, at least on my copy, is some sort of screw up or terrible joke- the pictures accompanying your scene choice have nothing to do with the scene itself. Scene 17, for example, in which we see the extent of Edgecombe's current illness, is represented by a picture of Sinise's character, who appears in the film for one scene several minutes later. He certainly isn't in the scene his head hovers above. As mentioned above, the split of the movie across two discs is a little frustrating too- if the film had come on the first disc and the special features on the second it would have been a vast improvement. This said, if it would have been impossible to maintain the quality level of the film without splitting it, it was an understandable, if unfortunate decision.
This two-disc set of "The Green Mile" is good, if not great, but the film itself is excellent. If a copy of "The Green Mile" is something that needs to be acquired, this is probably the one to get.

The Film: A Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: A Overall: A

 


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