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The Green Mile

The Green Mile was one of the most anticipated DVDs of 2000, just as it was one of the most awaited movies of the 1999 holiday screen season, and for fans of The Shawshank Redemption, the film gets the job done. As a male weepy; as a Stephen King adaptation; as a prestige, Oscar-nominated construction, The Green Mile fulfills its end of its implicit cinematic contract. All that being said, however, one must add that the film has a politics that are sure to make sensitive skins crawl. Stripped of its Oscar sheen, The Green Mile is a dire amalgam of Stanley Kramer's The Defiant Ones and Of Mice and Men. If Darabont has become the premiere mainstream prestige interpreter of Stephen King, it is probably because he adapts the non-horror stories, which are more likely to attract a greater portion of the viewing public. Darabont seems to be drawn to the most crowd-pleasing elements in the King aesthetic; he emphasizes the sentimentality of the work over the suspense or horror, and he wants to make male-oriented films that women want to see too. King's themes have become Darabont's. Moreover, King's world is that of the 1950s, and Darabont embraces it, ultimately to his detriment. King is a child of the Eisenhower era, obsessed with bullies, with social approval, with high school hierarchies, with the pop culture that kids from the '50s experienced. As the victim of bullies, he also drifted toward respite in an easy liberalism that is manifested in The Green Mile, wherein a black man (Michael Duncan) is portrayed as a simple soul with a noble spirit that shows dignity under oppression, a creature singled out by God for a special gift. This is Stanley Kramer country. If the King-Darabont liberalism is rooted in vague, well-meaning films, this approach also continues to form the basis for successful movies because the American commercial cinema naturally gravitates to that easy form of "feeling" that seems like thinking. For all Darabont's efficiency, however, this is workmanlike cinema, the kind that appeals to the prejudices and inchoate beliefs of the mass public — in a higher form of justice, in an afterlife, in a racial equality that is not particularly equal. Yet Darabont seems to take it all very seriously, and ends up having his name on the credits of movies that feature remarkable ensemble acting, in this case Tom Hanks, David Morse, Barry Pepper, and Jeffrey DeMunn. However, Warner has not treated The Green Mile as a major DVD release — it has minimal supplements (the usual cast and crew credits, a trailer, and a "making of" documentary). But for fans of King, Darabont, and Hanks, that may be enough, as the film is 188 minutes long. Good widescreen transfer (1.85:1), DD 5.1. Snap-case.
—D.K. Holm

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