The Green Mile amply demonstrates the danger of adapting a book too faithfully.Stephen King's 1930s Death Row prison drama was originally published as a serial novel in six parts. King freely admitted in his foreward that he had no idea what the ending would be when he wrote the first instalment. He wrote with the cliff-hangers to each part in mind, and they're exciting enough to leave you wanting more - but they make the material in-between feel like padding. Frank (The Shawshank Redemption) Darabont adapted and directed The Green Mile, and he's kept the padding intact. The film is long at three hours, but feels longer, because the pacing is all wrong. Darabont's been too afraid to do more than tinker with the source material, so the cliff-hangers arrive - almost like clockwork - on the half hour. The film has no peak, just five evenly-spaced climaxes. He even adds material of his own, drawing out King's perfunctory ending with a gratuitous coda.
The only advantage of his fidelity is that we retain the ghoulish thrills and wonder of King's original story. A beautiful ensemble cast bring the characters to life, and the prison guards (Tom Hanks, David Morse, Barry Pepper, Doug Hutchison) are especially good. The actors perform well as a team; they convey the pride of workers making the best of a difficult job (tending the electric chair) and doing it well. Michael Clarke Duncan has little of substance to work with as the gentle black inmate with a Christ-like gift, but his huge presence is enough for the role. And for the framing nursing home sequences, Darabont blessedly resisted covering Hanks in ageing make-up and instead cast 83 year old Dabbs Greer.The visual effects - an all-but-talking mouse, and the manifesations of Duncan's gift - are beautifully handled. The rest of the technical work is fine but, like the direction, not particularly memorable. Darabont has fashioned an epic, prestige literary adaptation from material which cried out for a less mannered approach.