When I was trying to think of movies to see for this year’s blind spot picks I remembered a conversation I had with a friend who was shocked I hadn’t seen the 1999 film The Green Mile. It just never appealed to me and came out at a time I wasn’t watching rated R movies. So, the blind spot series was the perfect spot to finally cover this well regarded flick. Unfortunately this is one of those classics that didn’t work for me. I can see why it would work for others but I didn’t care for it.
There is a trope in literature and film called the “magical negro”. This is defined as ” a supporting black stock character in American cinema who is portrayed as coming to the aid of a film’s white protagonists and who often possess mystical powers” Director Spike Lee went on to describe The Green Mile as the “super-duper magical negro” and I certainly agree with him.
The Green Mile is based on a novel by Stephen King and tells the story of a prison warden named Paul Edgecomb played by Tom Hanks who gets a new prisoner named John Coffey played by Michael Clark Duncan. John is on death row for the rape and murder of 2 little girls. He is joined by other prisoners played by Sam Rockwell, Michael Jeter and more.
However, John is no ordinary criminal. He has special powers that can heal and make things last forever (and the lights go out). Paul is even cured of a bladder infection and the wife of one of the prison wardens of a brain tumor.
The strength of The Green Mile definitely lies with its performances. Tom Hanks and Michael Clark Duncan are the particular standouts and Duncan was nominated for an Oscar for his work.
Unfortunately the movie can never shake the uncomfortable and trope-filled premise. I do not understand why they didn’t have the prison block more diverse. This would make it feel more like a person with powers instead of the magic black person sent to be a literal savior for the white people (and of course he doesn’t get saved by them at any time). It’s unfortunate.
Adding to all of this The Green Mile is over 3 hours long and very tedious to watch. Not a whole lot happens and the characters are very unpleasant. At about the 30 minute mark I was ready for this uncomfortable experience to be over. I am sure it is a film made with the best of intentions but it’s just not for me.