I was savouring the final few pages of The Green Mile, my first and favourite Stephen King book, for a few days before I plunged into the Tom Hanks led adaptation. It wasn’t that I didn’t have faith in the work of Frank Darabont, who had done a fine job of adapting The Shawshank Redemption, but because I knew immediately that whatever the film looked to achieve, it could come nowhere close to the power and exceptional perfection the book had offered me. Still, it was an inevitable moment, to sit down and power through The Green Mile, a film that released the same year I was born, and considered to be one of the finest movies of its generation.
Personally, I don’t see it. By all means it is a good film, but that’s it. A good film. Nowhere close to what the book had offered, but I suppose that’s a tad harsh. It’d be like comparing a five-star dining experience with a bit of roadkill lovingly cooked over a fire pit. Two completely different experiences, one trying to replicate the other. It doesn’t matter whether or not there are napkins and cutlery, you’re still showcasing a shoddy product that can’t replicate the experience to be had within the confines of King’s initial series. A strong attempt, certainly, but not a scratch on the prose and engaging interest the book can offer up to audiences.
Hanks’ leading role as Paul Edgecombe is strong, that’s a case of tremendous casting. Right at the time when Hanks was on top of the world, but he suits the role rather well. His inquisitive nature, calm demeanour that can turn on an instant, it’s all pulled together with a strong dedication to pulling as much as it can out of the book’s description. But actions aren’t the forte of Darabont’s film here, and they’d rather express their intentions through brief interludes, rather than dedicated moments. It’s one of the few films that would’ve actually benefitted from flashbacks, flashforwards and consistent narration. A story as herculean as this is hacked to pieces and barely fits into the three-hour format. A similar issue I had with the adaptation of The Martian, in that the book completely loses its pacing and intrigue when all the harsher, world-building moments are cut out.
The Green Mile is a film made up of moments. One after another, important plot devices or scenes are played out. There’s no room to breathe or take a break from these moments, and by the second hour, we’re nearly done with much of the book. Although it’s not the strongest film in the case of adaptations, it does hold its own as an independently made piece. Strong performances all round, the visualisation of King’s work is both delicate and dependable, it just lacks depth in its jail cells and corridors. To give credit where it is undoubtedly due, The Green Mile has within it scenes that have truly disturbed me, its adaptation of execution scenes and that of Edgecombe’s relationship with John Coffey are perfect. It’s just a shame there isn’t more of Michael Clarke Duncan conversing with Hanks, or the revelations that the book is proudly showcasing and parading around the whole way through.