The Daily Stream: The Green Mile Is Frank Darabont's Underappreciated Gem

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "The Green Mile"

Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max

The Pitch: Everyone needs a good cry from time to time and this movie will certainly help you lubricate those eyeballs. Frank Darabont's previous Stephen King adaptation, "The Shawshank Redemption," was so good it kind of sucks all the oxygen away from his masterful follow-up, despite the film being a huge commercial, critical and awards success.

Why It's Essential Viewing

"The Green Mile" is peak Stephen King. The prolific author's work has been adapted multiple dozens of times (hundreds if you count his "Dollar Baby" shorts, where he gives limited rights to some of his short stories to young filmmakers), but oddly his work isn't often given the huge budget, mega movie star treatment.

The movies that are given that treatment tend to have a larger impact on popular culture. "The Shining", "It", "Stand By Me" and "Misery" jump immediately to mind. And, of course, Frank Darabont's adaptations of King's work, with "The Green Mile" being one of the biggest productions with one of the biggest actors in the world.

Tom Hanks plays Paul Edgecomb, a kind-hearted guard who oversees the titular Green Mile (aka Death Row) in the sweaty 1930s south. One day a walking, talking miracle walks through his doors and into one of the Green Mile's cells.

This is John Coffey ("Like the drink, but spelt the same"), a towering, muscular hulk of a man who was convicted of the most heinous crime imaginable. Coffey has the temperament of a wide-eyed child and the hands of a healer. He'd stand out like a sore thumb in this place for the worst of the worst of humanity even if he didn't tower over the guards.

Character First

Darabont figured out the key to a great Stephen King adaptation is all in the character development. King may be known for his monsters, but the secret to his success as a storyteller is his ability to make his characters relatable. With "The Shawshank Redemption," Darabont proved that he understood King's approach to character, taking his time to develop not just Andy and Red, but all the colorful characters that surround them.

That keen eye for character detail is present in "The Green Mile." The people you love, like Paul, John, Brutal Howell, Dean Stanton and Eduard Delacroix are fully realized living, breathing characters. But so are the people you hate, like Sam Rockwell's Wild Bill Wharton and the biggest son of a bitch of the film, Percy Wetmore.

The Bad Death of Eduard Delacroix

Ooooooh, that Percy Wetmore. In my mind, Percy is up there with Stephen King's most reprehensible villains. I like Annie Wilkes in "Misery" more than Percy, but Pennywise, the child-eating killer clown, is maybe more likable. Percy just flat out sucks, and what he does to Eduard Delacroix is unforgivable.

Doug Hutchison fully commits to this role. The real life of the actor is troubling to say the least, but in "The Green Mile," it's clear that he wasn't afraid to be hated by the audience, and his work in this film has to be commended.

During quarantine I found that I missed watching movies with my friends and family so much that I turned to YouTube reaction videos to replicate the experience of introducing films I love to people I love. Oddly enough "The Green Mile" is a common title to see the various (mostly super young) YouTubers react to and, boy, is it a joy to see these poor bastards go from laughing to seething hatred aimed at Percy and then finally crying their eyes out.

"The Shawshank Redemption" is a perfect movie and deserves every single bit of praise it has received over the years, but it is a shame that it seems to overshadow "The Green Mile," which, despite being another Stephen King period prison drama, is such a radically different movie that it deserves to have its own spotlight.

Maybe the movie's time to stand alone is coming. Perhaps the new generation will discover it through these YouTube reaction videos and come to appreciate the film as its own thing, not a story to be automatically compared to Darabont's previous film. Whatever the legacy of the film will be, I'm confident it will live on and be responsible for the sale of tens of thousands of tissues.