Movie Review

The Green Mile

MPAA Rating: R for violence, language and some sex-related material.

Reviewed by: Hillari Hunter
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adult
Genre:
Suspense / Drama
Length:
3 hrs.
R

Starring: Tom Hanks, James Cromwell, Michael Duncan, Bonnie Hunt, Michael Clarke Duncan | Director: Frank Darabont | Producer: David Valdes | Writers: Frank Darabont, Stephen King (book) | Distributed by: Castle Rock Entertainment

Poster, The Green Mile

It is no accident that condemned prisoner John Coffey’s (Michael Clarke Duncan) initials are the same as our Savior. Coffey is a gentle giant who is able to heal by placing his hands on the afflicted. After prison guard Paul Edgecombe (Tom Hanks) is cured of an infection, he slowly comes to believe that Coffey is innocent. However, it is 1935, they are in the deep south of the United States, and Coffey, an African-American, has not, and will not get, a fair trial. Despite the obstacles, the men develop a friendship that transcends Death Row.

Poster, The Green Mile

The supernatural elements of the story enhance their relationship, but does not overpower the plot. It actually enhances the themes of resilience, repentance and faith.

The lead actors are great. Hanks plays Edgecombe as a decent, humane man, who does not relish being an executioner of men, but has a duty to his job. Duncan does well in his part of a child-like man, bewildered by his dire circumstances. Doug Hutchinson (better known as the monster Toombs from a couple of famous “X-Files” episodes) is good as a sadistic guard. Bonnie Hunt, known for comedic roles, is solid as Edgecombe’s supportive wife. Many of the actors shine in smaller roles as well.

There are a couple of scenes of implied sex between Edgecombe and his wife. Several characters use foul language and racial slurs. The violence level is above average. Electric chair executions are shown; one in particular is very graphic. Otherwise, this movie is nicely put together and a powerful story. This is recommended strictly for adults.

Year of Release—1999

Viewer Comments
strongly disagree with the high ratings of this film… “The Green Mile” is mainly a graphic horror flick disturbing to endure. I divide it into three parts:

ONE—yes as so many comments have already said, this film does vividly contrast good and evil, shows miracle healing power (within a twisted medium mind you) and talks interestingly about accountability to God on judgment day.

TWO—hordes of flies coming out of a man’s mouth after healing people; a Christlike figure punishing sinners with mental illness, death and penance; creepy evil characters; and scenes of two mutilated young girls… this is certainly Stephen King NOT Stephen Spielberg… DISTURBING MATERIAL WHILE GOD AND CHRIST ARE PORTAYED AS VENGEFUL WITH BIZARRE TWISTS TO THEM… I’d be truely afraid of the god portrayed in this movie.

THREE—sickening lengthy execution scenes in particular one botched electric chair attempt in which the victim takes a long long time to die, literally burning in agony. I’m not trying to be preachy, but it seems whereas Christians will not yet tolerate nudity and graphic sex, we’re quite comfortable with gutwrenching gratuitous violence. Some may say Stephen King is close to salvation. In my view, “The Green Mile” does a lot more to twist Christianity than to reveal it. And even if it was pro-Christian, a dark medium of graphic twisted violence to present it wouldn’t justify this movie anyway. If you really want to watch a full length feature about death row, try “Dead Man Walking” which actually IS redemptive. Or with less disturbing material; “Amistad”, “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Les Miserables” are examples of much better pieces of work. I thought “The Sixth Sense,” a bonified creepy thriller, was much more tolerable to watch than “The Green Mile.” In Canada, “The Green Mile” movie isn’t even R-rated. Bogus indeed. My Ratings: [1/2½]
—Todd Adams, age 32
To hear someone say, “What will I tell God when I stand before him at the judgment?” in a serious context was worth the $7.00. My Ratings: [3½/4
—Gary Sutliff, age 49
“The Green Mile” does have important references to healing and the power of God. In one scene, the prison guards while discussing bringing John Coffey out of the prison for a healing, refer to it as “a real praise Jesus healing service.” Thank goodness for even the mention “Praise Jesus” in a film. However, the other side of the film is a hard look at the issue of capital punishment. Stephen King actually exposes capital punishment as the real horror. I also have news for the Christian public. Tom Hanks stated in a previous interview with Esquire magazine that he was a born again pentecostal up until the age of 19, when the pull of the world became strong on him. Statements like “Have you found Jesus yet?” in Forest Gump, and “A real praise Jesus healing service” from “The Green Mile,” almost show a glimmer of perhaps a call of God that may be on the Oscar winning actor. Both Steve King and T. HANKS deserve our prayers. My Ratings: [3½/4]
—Dean Gilliland, age 31
“imitation is the highest form of flattery”… This was an excellent film. The movie making quality was superb. The Christian rating is a three because there are some offensive elements. However, these offenses were not blatantly used for shock value. Instead, they actually give depth to the depravity and wickedness of various characters. In all, this was story-telling at its best! Both plot and character development are wonderfully done. Tom Hanks delivers a wonderful performance as Paul Edgecomb—a prison boss [guard/captain] on death row. Now, it is fair to warn you that there are some Christological references made within the film. These references are pretty obvious to most people: John Coffee (JC) is similar to Jesus Christ, John heals as does Christ, John is falsely accused just as Jesus was, and John is executed just as Jesus. However, do not mistake John Coffee for Jesus! Although Stephen King borrows a lot of familiar references from Scripture, it is plain to see that John Coffee is not Jesus Christ. John seeks to escape the world through his upcoming death because of all of the pain he feels. Jesus sought death on the cross in obedience to His father knowing that He would set us free from sin. There are many other differences I could list but this is not a comparative study so I’ll spare you the details. The biggest give away that John and Jesus are so different is the underlying element of karmic retribution. I’m not a Stephen King expert but I know that most of his material involves this karmic thread in which people are punished immediately in lieu of their evil actions. They say that “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.” After watching this movie, it’s apparent that Stephen King must be really flattered by the Holy Bible. However, this story is not exactly new. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”—Ecclesiastes 1:9 For the real thing, read the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to John. My Ratings: [3/5]
—Scott, age 30
“Great Movie!”… I understand that Stephen King …has a great understanding of the spiritual world and I find that he uses a lot of scripture in his books/movies. The acting and the story was great! It was something to see the John Coffy character long to be in heaven and have spiritual disernment about different people. I had to fight off the tears at times myself. If you can get past the language, some violence and mild sex, this movie is a great work! My Ratings: [3/4½]
—John T, age 34
Thought-provoking, introspective… “The Green Mile” is a very well made movie. The acting is superb, who would expect anything less from Tom Hanks? The script is well thought out, the characters are developed, and the plot is engaging, begging you to anticipate or guess what will happen next. The most challenging part of the movie is the gentle giant. He has an empathy that is amazing. He can feel the pain of the people around him, and it hurts him a great deal. So much so that he yearns for death to escape feeling the pain of this world. It challenged me to look at my own heart, and the way that I look at people in this world around me. Do I isolate myself and keep up walls so that I don’t see and feel the pain of those around me? This is a question that every Christian has to ask themselves. Am I withdrawn from the world and the pain that is in it, surrounding myself with my Christian enclave so I don’t have to be hurt by what I see? Or are we out in the midst of the hurting and dying people of this world, extending the hand of mercy and healing that can only come from God, as he touches their lives and changes them forever. “The Green Mile” puts the question to Christians—what are you going to do with the hurt around you? It is an excellent film from a purely technical point of view, from an entertaining point of view, and from a heart and soul searching point of view… My Ratings: [3½/5]
—Chris Magill, age 29
“a great rendition of eternal truths”… Far too often, Christians seem to think they have an exclusive corner on the understanding of God. We seem to think that any ideas from the outside are inherently inferior to our own. Sadly, the popular Christian perceptions of God are often pale and shallow in comparison with the visions of outsiders. “The Green Mile” gives us a picture of Stephen King’s vision of God through his own incarnation story, and that vision is rich and deep. This film probes the depths of the meaning of sacrifice and redemption through a good story, not unlike or own biblical tradition. But most compelling is the incident when Coffey releases the power of evil on Percy. Witnessing the scene, and John Coffey’s explanation (“you can’t have what’s in your heart”), I was reminded of Paul’s warning of sin in Romans. When people do not see fit to acknowledge God, he will give them up to the passions of their hearts. When Percy and the prisoner are “given over,” they experience the punishment of death—physical death for one, spiritual death for the other. Although literalists complain that the film shows a vengeful messiah figure who does not wait for judgment, what the film clearly portrays is the judgment that happens in our daily lives when we are given over to the degrading passions of our hearts. This film is a great rendition of eternal truths, and I would recommend it for any who are not afraid of life’s realities. As a sidenote, another one of this film’s great qualities is that it forces the viewer to come face to face with death. It’s an intense and incredible journey, but if you’re not up to it, stay home. This movie will make you realize the transience of life. My Ratings: [5/5]
—Peter J. Wall, age 21
“A treat”… A wonderful film and yes, the “JC” (John Coffey) initials are an obvious typological reference. But remember, John Coffey is not supposed to loosely represent Christ, he’s supposed to loosely represent Christ according to Steven King! Thus, you’re going to get a pretty interesting (though not completely accurate) depiction of a Christological figure. I was actually relieved when John Coffey did not offer Wild Bill any of his cornbread (Jesus certainly would have, no matter how dispicable he was). It made John Coffey seem more human—I didn’t have to try see him as Steven King’s Jesus any more, but just a humble, God fearing guy with a special gift. I marvel at God’s handywork when I see it in secular works like “The Green Mile.” Sure, it’s not completely biblically correct, it’s not supposed to be. But truth is trumpeted from the soul of this movie. The humane, merciful way in which the prison guards treat the prisoners in this film is an absolute model of extending grace for would-be believers in Christ. The central message of this movie is that “loving others in a fallen world is taxing and difficult, and it will eventually kill us, but it’s entirely worth it!” God can use movies like this to remind believers who are unwilling to leave their comfort zones and deeply love others that this is exactly what is required of them… “The Green Mile” is a treat for those who are willing to embrace it for the truth that is found in it. My Ratings: [4½/4½]
—NHE, age 36
“a spiritual allegory”… I had heard early word on this movie, word that said it contained miracle-working. That should perk up any Christian’s ears. However, the issue is if these miracles are credited to Christ. This movie was melodramatic and did pull the audience’s tear ducts quite often, but not to the extent of “Titanic.” The movie is an allegory for good vs. evil and should be viewed through that critical lens. Although Coffey didn’t personally credit the miracles to Jesus, the guards around him did. His initials (J.C.) and his accenting of God as “God the Father” add an interesting note to his character. This was an emotional and spiritual movie, but it faltered in one way. This is excluding the constant profanity, of course. If this man was an example of the Saviour, it was an Old Testament one. John Coffey wreaked Biblical vengeance upon “bad men.” This was not the grace of the New Testament. Coffey did not wait for judgment day. Despite this, the movie was powerful. My Ratings: [3½/4]
—Brian Patton, age 25
“enjoyed the spiritual side”… I really enjoyed this movie! I know there may be a few complaints from Christians about the foul language and some of the immoral behavior BUT one must remember that the setting for this film is death row, not a kindergarten! I’ve never been to death row, but I would imagine that its inmates are not always the nicest, moral individuals. While some may repent of their ways, I’m sure there are others who are just like some of the inmates featured in this movie: vile, hateful individuals who don’t have any sense of right or wrong. So the foul language and behaviour didn’t upset me because it went along with the story. There is also a few sexual situations, but keep in mind that it’s between a committed, loving, faithful, MARRIED couple. I like the fact that Stephen King seems to be rather interested in God and his miracles. Let’s continue keeping him in prayer and pray that one day he’ll come to know the Lord! He has portrayed Christian characters who look at these miracles as coming from God, not from man, and these miracles are used to help others—not to hurt them. I enjoyed the spiritual side of the film, as well as the human side. Tom Hanks once again delivers a believable performance (is there anything this man can’t do?). Let’s also take time out to thank God for Tom Hanks, an actor who picks films that have meaning and are entertaining… I recommend “The Green Mile” to anyone over the age of 17 (since it is R rated). It’s very entertaining. My Ratings: [3/4]
—Maggi, age 24
“a road worth taking”… This stunningly made film is surprisingly Biblical in its supernatural perceptions. Our huge hero is a Christian who is gentle and meek, despite being a giant. He is forgiving and also repentant, and he loves all people. His healing gift comes from God, and that fact is more than acknowledged here. Morally, the film is a bit more shaky. About a dozen f-words spring from the mouths of nasty imates, with many others sprinkled in as well. The violence quotient is high, with 3 electric chair deaths, one of which is lengthy and graphic. There is also one sadistic guard who beats prisoners at random. Sexuality is mild, but a few sexually derived comments are heard, mostly from the sniveling inmates. There is also an implied sexual encounter between husband and wife that is handled very discreetly (nothing is seen). All in all, for those who can sit through the butt-numbing three hour-plus excursion as well as the grisly prison violence, “The Green Mile” is a road worth walking. My Ratings: [2/5]
—Gabe Rodriguez, age 19
“a masterpiece!”… I saw “The Green Mile” today. This is the film that we Christians have been waiting for! It is the best movie I have ever seen in my life! I am a major Christian, and was skeptical to see the movie but it turned out to be the most moving movie I have ever seen! It’s a masterpiece! Incredible! I was entertained, I laughed, and cried! Especially the last 30 mins of the movie. I being a guy cried along with every single person in the theater! …This is NOT a horror film! Its a drama! There is some gore, but nothing at all that is over the line! …MOST OF ALL, this movie had a strong Christian force to it! The movie screamed out Jesus!! The obvious message of the whole film is that Jesus saves! Whether you are a strong Christian or somebody that has only heard Jesus’s name once, both will know without a doubt that what the writer, film makers, actors, and directors message was, was GOD!… My Ratings: [5/5]
—Kelly Carr, age 17
one of the best films of the year… This film is wonderful. As a Christian, it has a great message about God intervening in our world, and using the most unlikely people. While not theologically or biblically accurate, it does show people with real faith in a positive light. There is some rough language, but it does take place on death row. It is not for children though, as there is are several people who are electrocuted in the electric chair. This one should be nominated. My vote for one of the best of the year so far. My Ratings: [3/5]
—Fred Olsen, age 37
“moving and wonderful / glorifies goodness”… While there are several disturbing scenes in this movie, I found it to be incredibly moving and wonderful. The profanity was not excessive, but it was there… however I believe that it served the function of defining the nature of the truly evil characters. There are many Christian overtones, and the plight of the prisoner John Coffey is perhaps the most spiritually moving of all. One must look past some of the “difficult” scenes and take in the larger picture. The characters all represent people at different stages of Christian growth. Their interaction with each other is key. The evil in this movie serves a purpose. It is not there for shock value. Ultimately it glorifies the GOODNESS. My Ratings: [3½/4½]
—Elizabeth Ripley, age 31