The Three Hour Mile

This detailed, slow-moving film raises some tantalizing questions.

In this detailed, slow-moving film, watch out for performances by a mouse, David Morse, Michael Clarke Duncan and Tom Hanks.

This is how the cookie crumbles. The year is 1935, the period of the Great Depression, and the prisoner on death row is Duncan, a seven-foot-tall, massive negro who is sentenced to execution for raping and murdering two little white girls. He arrives at a prison to serve his sentence. This prison is run by a warden named "Edgecomb" (read Hanks) with a urine infection.

Mr. Paul Edgecomb is a dream come true for any prisoner. In fact, he's so good and sweet and chocolatey, he's overdone and consequently unbelievable. Anyway, as the movie progresses at its own pace (without any consideration for the audience's patience threshold, I might add), we're treated to first, about four or five special effects; and secondly, the blossoming relationship between John Coffey, played by Duncan - a murderer who's afraid to sleep in the dark - and the very ethical and politically correct Edgecomb. We're also educated on the execution procedures used by American state prisons in the 1930s.

"Has Duncan, a man who only speaks baby talk, really committed the brutal murders?" is the question that plagues the mind that has not read the novel by the same name written by Stephen King, of which this movie is the big-screen adaptation.

Tom Hanks as usual captures the viewers with his magnetic presence and grace on screen. He breathes as much reality as is possible into a character that is irritatingly perfect.

Duncan...well, he clearly has got under the skin of his character. His acting is convincing and his screen presence commands attention, to say the least.

The whole movie is being narrated in flashback by a 108-year-old Edgecomb to his friend Elaine in an old age home.

How does he get to live that long? Why is the movie titled the "Green Mile"? Discover the answers to these tantalising questions for yourselves when you go see the film; and pay attention to the last few minutes of dialogue delivered by Edgecomb. It's the only one worth listening to, anyway.

This article was first published on 01 May 2000.