Death-row prison guard Paul Edgecomb (Hanks) and his kind-hearted colleagues on E block’s Green Mile (the path from the cells to the electric chair) have their routine disrupted by new inmates, a friendly mouse, a maliciously unprofessional coworker and a series of supernatural events.
Set in Depression-era Louisiana, The Green Mile tells several human stories, all of them touched by E block’s new tenant, John Coffey, a hulking black man accused of killing twin girls. The more his captors get to know this gentle giant, the more they’re convinced of his innocence. John soon displays a miraculous gift of healing, creating internal conflict for the men who must oversee his execution.
Based on a story by horror scribe Stephen King, this 3-hour film has a lot going for it. Motifs of good vs. evil dominate, contrasting warm, selfless characters with others who personify humanity’s ugliness. It also credits God with endowing miracle workers.
What’s disappointing about The Green Mile is its abrasive flip side. The same people who acknowledge divine power are quick to use God’s name profanely. Obscenities, as well as ribald sexual and anatomical references, tarnish the dialogue. Graphic depictions of urination, erotica and violence (brutal electrocutions the most unsettling) could have left more to the audience’s imagination.
Despite moments of uplift, The Green Mile suffers from harsh elements and a frustratingly bittersweet climax. Some great scenes, but the lasting impression is like heartburn after a fairly satisfying meal.