The Green Mile: A Truly Powerful Movie

October 23, 2019
The Green Mile is one of those movies that never fails to bring tears to people's eyes. Read more about it here!

Some movies do more than just entertain, they touch your soul. The Green Mile (1999) is certainly one of them.

It’s not an easy movie to summarize in a few words. Thus, we decided to dedicate this article to this amazing creation of the “Seventh Art”.

A man sitting at a desk in a musty room in a prison.

A one-of-a-kind movie

We’re not just saying that. It really is one-of-a-kind. Why? For one thing, The Green Mile is one of those movies that’s hard to catalog or label. Some critics define it as a drama. Others say that it’s a mystery or a work of suspense. Some people even say it fits most comfortably in the science-fiction genre.

Truthfully, they’re all right to put it in those genres. But at the same time, they’re also all wrong. The Green Mile has enough different elements to belong in any of those categories, without belonging to any of them. It’s actually an adaptation of a Stephen King book by the same name.

This movie isn’t just one-of-a-kind because it’s hard to classify, though. It also has absolutely singular characters, plot, and context. The main character is a prison guard named Paul Edgecomb. His job is to monitor the prisoners in Cold Mountain Penitentiary’s death row (nicknamed “the green mile”) in 1930s Louisiana.

Edgecomb, along with his team of prison guards, begin to experience strange things after the arrival of an unusual inmate, John Coffey. Coffey is a black man well over six feet tall. He’s extremely strong and extremely sensitive. Over time, Coffey shows just how special he is, thanks to his amazing power.

Emotion is the true star of The Green Mile

Paul and John are, on paper, co-main characters. But that being said, one element that’s present throughout the movie is emotion. We say that because one of the movie’s achievements is the many different emotions it can evoke in the viewer. It can be funny, intensely dramatic, suspenseful, and even terrifying.

John Coffey is the vehicle for that emotional power. Despite being on death row for allegedly murdering two little girls, this mysterious prisoner seems as sensitive, naive, and optimistic as a child. There’s a clear contrast between the way he acts and the way we might perceive him based on his sheer size.

John also has a special power: he can get rid of the illnesses that eat people away. As the story progresses, he uses that power on more and more people. His extreme sensitivity gives him the ability to empathize with anyone in pain, and he uses his power to bring them relief.

John Coffey’s undeniable goodness

Are some people purely good, while others are purely evil? Personally, I don’t think so. I think there are actions, behaviors, and attitudes that we can describe in those terms, but even that tends to be a reductive and simplistic view of reality.

However, John is definitely one of those people you could generally describe as good. The power we mentioned above makes him into a person who tries to do good almost as an instinct.

His character is a representation of acting based on a well-developed moral compass. He uses his power for anyone who needs it, whether they’ve been kind to him or not.

John Coffey in The Green Mile looking down, with tears in his eyes.

A sad lesson

In a hate-filled environment where people are carrying weapons, killing, and abusing their power, John Coffey is almost like a miracle. He’s a powerful force of nature. The root of that power is love, which he expresses in many different ways, as in his enjoyment of the little things.

If this supernatural man were to appear in our lives, we would basically have no choice but to look after him so that he could go on doing good in the world. So that he could make it better with each person who’s life he touched.

But that’s not what happens in the movie. Because of the series of events, and the fact that John is a black man in America, he doesn’t have a happy ending. Ultimately, he’s put to death by the electric chairThe odd thing is that he seems to want that to be his end.

In an insensitive world, his hypersensitivity causes him more pain than he can seem to bear. But the real world, the one we live in, isn’t really so different from the world of The Green Mile. I have a bad feeling that if John were to live in our world, he would have the same unhappy ending.

In life, some people seem to do good wherever they go, even if they don’t know why. But we don’t always give those people the treatment they deserve. This is sad because, in a desensitized world, any display of sensitivity is truly revolutionary.