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Blu-Ray : Highly Recommended
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Release Date: December 1st, 2009 Movie Release Year: 1999

The Green Mile

Overview -

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.

Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Video Resolution/Codec:
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.78:1 (Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1)
Audio Formats:
Turkish: Dolby Digital 2.0
Special Features:
Theatrical Trailers
Release Date:
December 1st, 2009

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


I'm sure I'm in the minority here, but of Frank Darabont's two Depression-era Stephen King prison movies, I actually prefer 'The Green Mile' over 'The Shawshank Redemption.' The main reason is that while 'Shawshank Redemption' indulged in every prison movie cliché in the book, 'The Green Mile' was happy to sidestep them, going instead for a mystical and weird (and admittedly sometimes too on-the-nose) allegory in a truly bleak place.

It could also be because I went on the whole 'Green Mile' journey, picking up each installment of the serialized novel as they were being released, which was truly a one-of-a-kind experience and added to the overall Dickensian feeling of the piece. Each month meant another 90 to 100 pages of one of the best Stephen King stories ever, and that really was a thrill.

'The Green Mile' is the story of Paul Edgecombe (a very leading man-y Tom Hanks), who works as a prison guard on death row, which the guards call the Green Mile because, to quote both the book and the movie, "it was the color of faded limes." It's here on the Mile that he has to contest with a slimy, dangerous guard named Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison) as well as the wear and tear on your soul when you send somebody to the electric chair day in and day out. But everything changes when John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) shows up on the Mile.

Coffey is a 7-foot black man with little education, who was convicted of murdering two young white girls and is sentenced to die. The only problem is that, almost from the moment he shows up, Edgecombe wonders if such a man - huge, for sure, but tender and sympathetic - could be capable of such a heinous crime. There also seems to be something positively otherworldly about Coffey - he seems to have a set of supernatural powers that are impossible to ignore.

The main moral conflict in the movie comes down to Edgecombe and the other guards (even the warden, played by James Cromwell) all knowing that Coffey is more than innocent - he's quite obviously a messianic stand-in - and still sentencing him to, in the film's words, "ride the lightning." It's a tender, heartbreaking story of guilt and conscious that also acts as an oversized melodrama, with so many subplots that I haven't even mentioned, like the arrival of Sam Rockwell's "Wild Bill," a multiple murderer, arriving on the Mile, and the little mouse Mr. Jingles and his relationship with inmate Edward Delacroix (played by the late Michael Jeter), a murderer and arsonist.

There were some concessions made in bringing the novel to the screen, most notably the epic number of characters (both prisoners and guards) getting shortchanged in terms of development, and a third act shortcut that removes a nifty detective angle to Edgecombe's character, but the movie is already seen as being overlong (three hours). Also, the old man Paul Edgecombe bookends that worked so well in the book because he was writing down his remembrances, seem less sound here, and while their inclusion seems somewhat essential, it could have been reworked some.

Still, 'The Green Mile' is a gorgeously sweeping movie, full of wonderful characters and occasional horrors. If you aren't crying at least once, then you should probably make sure there aren't wires coming out of the back of your head, because you really are a robot. Darabont is a skilled director (and adapter) and this film stands as a towering achievement. And as good as the movie is technically, the performances are even better. Tom Hanks is warm and affecting, but not too saccharine, as the lead prison guard. His compatriots on the Mile include Barry Pepper (from 'Saving Private Ryan') and, in particular, David Morse, and everyone is outstanding. The inmates get the juicier scenes (particularly Rockwell, and in a more measured performance, Graham Greene as a Native American inmate they call "The Chief"), but the guards are just as good. Everyone is uniformly excellent, and brings the right amount of humanity to the occasionally supernatural situations.

'The Green Mile' came out in 1999, when a bunch of young buck filmmakers (among them Alexander Payne, Mike Judge, David Fincher, Paul Thomas Anderson, David O. Russell and Spike Jonze), armed with youthful inventiveness, were releasing cutting-edge films that would go on to define the following decade. 'The Green Mile' is decidedly more old fashioned and somehow got lost in the shuffle, seen by a fraction of the 'Shawshank' diehards. Still, the movie is every bit as powerful as those other films released in 1999. When people say "they don't make them like they used to," well, they probably haven't seen 'The Green Mile.'

Video Review


'The Green Mile's striking 1080p/VC-1 transfer (1.78: 1 aspect ratio) on this 50GB disc is every bit worth the upgrade from standard DVD to Blu-ray. The look of the film isn't exactly sepia toned, but I wouldn't hesitate to say that the look is somewhat "honeyed" in appearance. (For some reason this is a staple of Depression-era-set movies that Frank Darabont just could not resist.) This look doesn't take away from the level of clarity or detail present on the Blu-ray, but it needs to be acknowledged as a stylistic choice that does color (literally) the movie's visual scheme.

All that said, the movie looks absolutely gorgeous. Detail is wonderful, with every hair on Mr. Jingles' cuddly little body visible, and the costumes particularly popping. Color, even when somewhat muted due to the overall look, can occasionally burst forth. This is the case with old Paul Edgecombe's red rain slicker (which I thought was a nod to Nicolas Roeg's "Don't Look Now" but it's actually a tip of the hat to the more fairy tale elements of the story), and the blue flames that burst forth when a character's execution goes horribly awry. Blacks are deep and bottomless, although there is some occasional crush there. Not too much, mind you.

On the technical side of things, there are a couple of instances of edge enhancement, but they're few and far between and you have to be looking for that kind of thing to even notice them. There aren't any micro-blocking issues, given the disc's large size. And the film retains a level of grain that seems appropriate for its original theatrical presentation, without being distracting at all. I've come to appreciate an even level of grain, actually; keeps things from looking too plastic.

Speaking of too plastic, it doesn't look like the studio has monkeyed around with the image at all, so there's no digital noise reduction or similar shenanigans, which is much appreciated. Overall, this is a solid presentation, lovingly recreating (or possibly exceeding), the film's original theatrical run and marking a solid upgrade from previous home video releases.

Audio Review


No, 'Green Mile' is not 'Transformers,' but its Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix is still fairly impressive. The first thing you'll notice is that the surround gets a good workout without bringing too much attention to itself. There's a scene where Tom Hanks meets with Gary Sinise, who plays a character close to John Coffey's incarceration, and you can hear the rumble of thunder in the distance. I've never really heard the thunder before but on this mix, crackling in the distance, the scene comes alive.

This is evocative of the kind of commitment to surround the mix has. There's always something going on in the sound field, whether it’s the clatter of tiny mouse paws, or people walking down that linoleum mile, or sparks flying out of an electric chair, there's always activity. The movie is, though, first and foremost anchored by dialogue, which is always clean and crisp, no matter how gummy the actors' accents become.

The entire mix is well prioritized and full of life. For a more low key drama, with moments of extreme activity (like that execution that goes wrong), the mix is just wonderful. The understated score by Thomas Newman also sounds like a million bucks. It's so subtle that you almost forget its there but man, what a score.

There are a whole bunch of audio options on here, too. For sound there are the following mixes: English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, German Dolby Digital 5.1, Italian Dolby Digital 5.1, Turkish: Dolby Digital 2.0 (whew). There are also subtitles in English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German SDH, Greek, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Swedish, Thai, and Turkish.

Special Features


'The Green Mile' follows the Warner Bros. pattern when it comes to lesser catalogue conversions - all of the special features from the special edition of the movie, all in standard definition. This is okay, especially since this is the first time 'The Green Mile' has been presented on one disc (the other versions were a flipper and a two-disc set with the movie spread across both discs), with all the special features on the same disc. Still, it would have been nice for some new features, and some in HD. I'd love to hear Frank Darabont talk about this movie, especially in light of making his underrated Stephen King monster mash 'The Mist.' Oh well.

'The Green Mile' is housed in one of those cardboard "book" type packages that Warner Bros. is so fond of (the same kind they used for 'JFK,' 'Amadeus,' and the original 'Natural Born Killers' discs). While this is kind of obnoxious, there is a pretty neat little booklet that goes along with the package, featuring some gorgeous photographs and illustrations.

Also, it should be noted that the disc is Region free.

  • Commentary with writer-director Frank Darabont Darabont is a strong personality, and he maintains your interest throughout all three hours. And hey, when things slow down, he's always got his cell phone and he's happy to call people who worked on the film for their insights on the film! Also the producer of the commentary makes an appearance. She says her sole responsibility is to keep Darabont talking and on topic. (I had no idea people like this existed. If they did, then they would surely have shot down the wonderful musical commentary on 'Step Brothers.') Some of the biggest revelations have to do with Mr. Jingles and the ingenious ways that he did his tricks. This commentary might be redundant if you check out all the other special features first, but it's still recommended if you're as big a fan of the film as I am.
  • Walking the Mile: Making of 'The Green Mile' (SD, 25:24) This is your standard issue making of doc, with talking head interviews and behind-the-scenes junk. If this was the only documentary on the disc, then you might be disappointed, as this is very easily skippable and has all the depth of an extended 'Entertainment Tonight' segment, but thankfully there's a big daddy just around the corner…
  • Miracles and Mystery: Creating the Green Mile (SD, 1 hour, 43 minutes total) This is an absolutely wonderful and totally absorbing documentary. It is broken down into the following segments: Stephen King: Storyteller talks about the master of horror himself, and the impact he's had on popular culture. At first it's a lot of people talking about how awesome he is, and then we actually get to hear from the King himself, as he talks about his craft and specifically the creation of 'The Green Mile.' Totally great. Next is 'The Art of Adaptation,' which almost exclusively features Frank Darabont talking about the process of adapting the book and his personal life as he scrambled to finish the script before his rights lapsed (his beloved pet cat was dying at the time). It's a really interesting look at the process, for sure. 'Acting on the Mile' showcases the truly stellar cast of 'The Green Mile,' how they interacted, and how they dealt with showing up to such a grim set, and losing people they cared about. Since they shot in order, when someone "died" on screen, they left the movie, so they'd get attached to Graham Greene or Michael Jeter and then they'd be sent to the chair, and effectively off the movie. Again: really great. Next is 'Designing the Mile,' which looks at the production design of the film - from the Mile to the cars to the electric chair, all fascinating stuff. Then there's 'Magic on the Mile,' which looks at the make-up effects and visual effects that brought the film to life, including the creation of that horrific electric chair mishap. This section is ghoulish, for sure, but still great. 'The Tail of Mr. Jingles,' to lighten things up, is about the various mice they trained to play Mr. Jingles and how all the actors interacted with the mice (some appreciated it more than others.)
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 3:38) Insert "the movie has deleted scenes? But it's so long!" joke here. Well, it took some doing to track down these deleted scenes, which you can watch with or without commentary from director Frank Darabont. The scenes are very brief but still quite fascinating - one is Bitterbuck, the Native American inmate played by Graham Greene, saying goodbye to his family before he goes to the chair; the other is a scene of prayer with John Coffey and Paul Edgecombe, which is sort of boring but has an interesting "flash" (people who know the movie will get what I'm talking about but I'm being intentionally vague).
  • Michael Clark Duncan's Screen Test (SD, 8:26) Elsewhere on the disc, you'll hear stories about how Bruce Willis was a huge fan of the book and when he heard Frank Darabont was adapting it, he called Frank to recommend his 'Armageddon' co-star Michael Clark Duncan. Duncan came in and gave a so-so reading. Still, Darabont hired him an acting coach while he looked for other actors. When it got down to about three candidates, they brought Duncan back, and he did this screen test with Tom Hanks and knocked everybody dead. This really is an astounding screen test and it's hard to imagine anyone else in the role.
  • Tom Hanks' Make-up Tests (SD, 5:27) This is sort of amazing. For much of the production, it was assumed that Tom Hanks, donning sophisticated old age make-up, would play the old Paul Edgecombe. Darabont commissioned two elaborate, all-day make-up tests from make-up kingpins Rick Baker and Greg Nicetero (from KNB) to do the appliances. And once the tests were completed, it was pretty certain they'd have to hire an actor (Dabbs Greer) to play old man Edgecombe. Still, if you're a fan of ridiculous old man make-up as I am (like that episode of 'X-Files' where Mulder and Scully grow old because of an underwater UFO), or want to see how many dead-ends you drive down in the course of making a movie, this is a must see.
  • Teaser Trailer: A Case Study (SD, 6:40) This is a really fascinating look at an aborted teaser trailer, designed by comic book demigod Bill Sienkiewicz. The teaser trailer was conceived of early, and was shot concurrently with the rest of the film. It featured Mr. Jingles climbing around the Green Mile, and was emphasizing the magical realism of the film, with an angle on it being a somewhat cuddly Tom Hanks drama for Christmas. Except that when it was finished and they cut it together, a mouse alone on a set looks like a giant rat. And the teaser was scrapped. This is a must-see.
  • Trailers Here you get to see the aborted trailer without the documentary casing (SD, 1:59) and the ridiculously long theatrical trailer (SD, 2:22), which did a much better job of conveying that it was a magical Tom Hanks movie for Christmas.

'The Green Mile,' in my estimation, is an even better film than Frank Darabont's beloved 'The Shawshank Redemption.' Both films are adaptations of Stephen King stories, set in prisons during the Depression, but 'Green Mile' has that extra element of magical realism, and a story so dense and wonderful that it's hard to pick apart, even after multiple viewings. This Blu-ray edition is equally impressive, with above average video, a wonderful audio mix, and a whole host of extras that, while not being in HD, are informative and entertaining and totally wonderful. This easily earns a highly recommended stamp and, had the video tics been worked out and the special features given an upgrade, would be an easy must own. This is a great disc and it's a shame Warner Bros. has seen it fit to hide the movie in the bowels of Best Buy instead of letting everyone enjoy it.