Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Movie Index


Directed by Frank Darabont (1999, Warner Bros.)
Starring Tom Hanks, David Morse, Bonnie Hunt, and Michael Clarke Duncan

A guard on death row experiences a miracle as one of the men sentenced to death has the ability to heal.



4 stars

October 19th, 2002 on Video

    Very intense, and very chilling. The acting was top-notch, and the story was wonderfully told. But I don't think I could watch this movie again.

Maybe the subject matter is just too intense. The shot of one of the prisoners frying to death through the stupidity of one of the guards, had me saying enough was enough. Did it go on for too long? Yes. But it was supposed to.

I really liked the guards, as I was supposed to. They were really human, in an inhumane world. The only friends they had were each other, really, and people like them, because how could they relate to anybody else? They can't even talk about their work to each other, as evidenced by the terrific expressions at the picnic table when Paul brings up the resuscitated mouse -"I could have gone the rest of the day without you bringing that up..." Indeed!

Paul was the greatest -even under extreme stress, his urinary tract infection, and a hyper inmate, he kept his calm. The other one was the person we loved to hate. He had such antipathy towards everybody and everything that it was easy to do so. I loved the way he got obsessed about the mouse and cleared the storeroom for a second time to find it! And we aren't too sad to see him meet his "end" (as far as the audience is concerned), either.

For we begin to identify with the prisoners, too. Most of them grew sympathetic as their time drew near. They grew sorry for their crimes, whatever they may have been. And by the time they went to the electric chair, I think most of the guards knew that they had suffered enough, and shouldn't be put to death.

There was one exception, of course. "Billy the Kid" was fun to watch, just to see how much he could get away with, and what his punishment would be. I think he managed to hit everybody with something, whether it was urine or chocolate (?) or spit, or something. It was a pleasure to see him meet his early end, especially afterwards, when we see what he had actually done.

But it is John Coffey, the giant of a man, who really steals the show. He is so gentle, that we know right away it must have been a mistake. I loved his prescience about Billy -"be careful". And the special effects when he discharges the infection, revives the mouse, and removes the tumor were creepy and extremely impressive.

Of all the inmates Paul had ever seen die, I think John was the only one that he really grew to love. Of course we know that John was trying to revive the two girls using his gift, that he didn't rape and kill them. And so it is natural for Paul to offer him a release -to escape, if he could. But John's answer is the best one -he is not stupid, and he knows his life will end, and with it a very powerful force for good. But his gift comes with a price, the ability to empathize with every mind that comes his way, and he is happy to be done with it.

At first, I was not sure why the writers had given us bookends to the movie. But after a bit of thought, and the closing monologue, I think it was a brilliant stroke. It shows us that Paul did indeed have to pay a price for killing John Coffey. For ridding the world of such a wonderful gift, he had to live for a long time, even after growing weary of the world. Sacrifice is the key to this great story, and Paul's is not an obvious one.

Of course Mr. Jangles the mouse didn't do anything wrong, and he got to grow very old as well, probably more weary of the world than Paul was!

Even before knowing that the director and author were the same as for The Shawshank Redemption, I could tell. The style, the tight writing, and the no-nonsense characters and plot were all the same. Every scene meant something, and said it in a way that was meaningful. It felt right, and it was wonderful to see these characters revel in it.


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