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Tom Hanks (left) with Oscar-nominated Michael Clarke Duncan
Go The Mile
At three hours long, The Green Mile goes the distance
Film review by STEPHEN SHORT

Set on death row in a southern prison in 1935, The Green Mile is an adaptation of Stephen King's 1996 best-selling novel. Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks), a prison guard, relates the account of how he developed a poignant, unusual relationship with one inmate (Michael Clarke Duncan) who possesses magical powers, happens to be black and is seven feet tall.

At three hours long, The Green Mile goes the distance, with a curious cut and paste of Saving Private Ryan's most Oscar-esque moments sprinkled with the "phantastrophies" of Ghost. Director Frank Darabont is no stranger to awards. The Shawshank Redemption, a 1994 prison drama based on another King novel, merited seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture.

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At three hours long, The Green Mile goes the distance

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The Green Mile is book-ended--as was Saving Private Ryan--with flashbacks. Edgecomb, living in a nursing home six decades after working as the head guard on Death Row at Cold Mountain Penitentiary in Louisiana, relates his experience of watching over killers and before you can say incontinence the scene cuts to 1935.

Edgecomb walks The Green Mile--the stretch of linoleum flooring that convicts walk from their jails to the electric chair--with a variety of cons, but has never encountered someone like John Coffey, convicted for brutally killing a pair of nine-year-old sisters. Edgecomb, surprise, thinks Coffey has a simple, naive nature and, cut from the Oscar-winning cloth of conscience, Hanks starts to ask questions about Coffey and gradually believes him innocent.

Hanks plays Hanks. But just so we know he comes with a little stubble he lets his workers know he's "pissing razors" every time he takes a slash. He's a man god damn it. And he needs to be. The inmates are a rotten bunch. Notable are Wild Bill (Sam Rockwell), a frisky cocktail of Huck Finn and the Devil, who'd kiss then kill his mother and Del (Michael Jeter), a loner whose only attachment is a mouse.

But Hanks has to fight his own guards too. Percy (Doug Hutchinson) salivates evil; the sort of guy who'd go to the zoo not to watch the animals, but to throw rocks at the children. He thinks Coffey "deserves to fry for what he done." Wholesome Hanks tells him to think of the prison as "an intensive care hospital, not a bucket of piss to drown rats in." Overseeing all is Warden Moores (James Cromwell), desensitized by the death that surrounds him, bittersweet and grim.

The Green Mile stretches where Shawshank was tight; it does play sharp for 90 minutes yet the final ensemble is blurred. Darabont also took a gamble with the high fantastics. The stark, raw theater of impending death that fizzles like electric current through the Penitentiary is what lingers in the memory after walking out of the cinema. The Mile goes from cell-to-chair; shame Darabont had to make a magical marathon out of it.

The Green Mile is now playing in Hong Kong and around the region, opening March 24 in Thailand, March 25 in Japan and March 30 in India.

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