The Green Mile Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

The Green Mile (1999): A Film-parable About Injustice, Compassion & Loneliness. The Meaning Of The Film The Green Mile Plot Analysis, Actors And Roles, Main Idea, Review

The meaning of the film “The Green Mile” (1999) is that it is very difficult for a person endowed with an unusual gift to live in society. This movie is about the monstrous injustice of law and power: among the convicts are often not only innocent, but even bright and pure people. At the same time, this work is about a real miracle, about compassion and humanity. And finally, this is a film about loneliness.

Both eminent and little-known actors at that time were employed in the film: Tom Hanks, David Morse and Michael Clarke Duncan.

The film has huge ratings – 9.1 in KinoPoisk, 8.6 in IMDb.


Brief summary of the film. A huge black man is found near the bodies of two girls. His name is John Coffey. John does not look like a criminal: he is childishly naive and affectionate. She is afraid of the dark, cries at night and can only write her own name. Coffey has the gift of healing. Trying to help the children, he became a hostage to circumstances and fell into the millstones of the System.

Block “E” is guarded by five guards: Paul, Harry, Brutus, Dean and Percy. The main antagonist in the film is Percy. Unlike his colleagues who just do their job, this young man clearly enjoys it: he likes to feel his power over the prisoners.

The second antagonist of the film is a criminal named Wild Bill. It was he who killed the two girls whose deaths John was accused of.

As the plot develops, the main character, the head of block “E”, which contains the most cruel criminals sentenced to death, undergoes a transformation: from an indifferent warden, he turns into an almost altruist who denies the justice of the legal system.

Tom HanksTom Hanks as Paul Edgecomb. The role was originally going to go to John Travolta.

Frank Darabont’s film does not exactly repeat the plot of the book: in the original, Stephen King details the facts in defense of Coffey. Paul, Dean and Brutus had real evidence of his innocence. Unfortunately, it was already too late.

The Green Mile is a very emotional, almost sentimental film. It evokes real, strong feelings. This is facilitated not only by the acting, but also by the atmosphere, created mainly due to the warm colors, tenacious musical accompaniment and smooth camera movements.

The final

At first glance, Paul Edgecomb seems to be a positive hero from all sides, but it should be remembered that he himself is the narrator in this story. He focuses her on his guilt before John, whose execution he could not stop.

In his old age, he says that he received the gift of Coffey, which at the same time became his curse: he will have to live a very long time and see how his loved ones die. He believes he is being punished for letting John die. But he is a warder, not a judge: why should he be punished?

For Coffey, his gift is the same curse. It was unbearable for him to live, because he felt the pain of this world. He is not a righteous man and not a messiah: he is a simple person who is tired of such a life and perceives death as deliverance from suffering.

The litmus test for Paul is Percy (his somewhat caricatured image is a typical reference to the guards from the German camps during the Second World War). A spoiled young sadist “with great connections” annoys Paul, who deep down (somewhere very deep) considers himself a good person.

Paul does not mind “somehow” getting rid of the young man, who is a walking problem: he treats the prisoners badly, and Edgecomb is forced to calm them down. To get rid of Percy, Paul allows him to execute Delacroix. It is because of the monstrous consequences of this that the protagonist of the film blames himself.

PercyPercy (actor Doug Hutchison)

Trying to somehow make amends, Paul tries to help the warden’s wife with Coffey’s gift. But Delacroix’s shadow will now always follow him.

The tragedy is not that Edgecomb killed a miracle (like Bulgakov’s Pilate killed Yeshua), but that the amazing gift of this big child could not heal Paul’s soul. His curse is conscience.

All the characters in the picture are united by loneliness: each of them is lonely in his own way.

Loneliness is a pervasive feeling, but very important in the film. In part, this is the essence of the ending: when a person is alone, his green mile lasts a very long time. The Green Mile of Paul Edgcombe, like the path of Pontius Pilate until the moment of his release Yeshua, is the path to imprisonment in oneself.

Nobody condemned him, but he judges himself, and bears the burden of mortal existence. In loneliness, life flows unbearably long, and with a load of guilt – even longer. Physical freedom is not spiritual freedom: sometimes it becomes a curse. John Coffey got rid of his curse, Paul was doomed to him.

The meaning of the film

The story shown in the movie can be called realistic only conditionally. If you understand, this is a parable. The whole story seems to be an interpretation of the famous gospel story, which was previously reworked by Mikhail Bulgakov in a peculiar way. The relationship between John Coffey and Paul Edgecomb is reminiscent of the amazing meeting between Yeshua and Pontius Pilate.

film frame

In Yershalaim, Pontius Pilate is judging the innocent Yeshua, who performed a miracle, relieving him of an unbearable headache. After the execution, Pilate lived a long life, but it cannot be called happy: he was tormented by his conscience. The same thing happens with Paul, who was healed by Coffey: all his long life he remembers John, and suffers from the fact that he did not dare to go against the System to the end.

The meaning of the name

The corridor along which the convicts are led to the electric chair is called the Green Mile. It is covered with green carpet. And although this path is only a few feet long, but for suicide bombers this path seems incredibly long and difficult, because it leads to death.

But the name also has a hidden meaning.

“Each person sooner or later will have to walk his own green mile” is the key phrase of the film. It means that everyone will have to pay their bills.

The philosophical idea of ​​the picture lies in its very name: the green mile is a metaphor for the path of life. This is the place where everyone will be. This is something like purgatory (according to Catholicism), or ordeals (according to Orthodoxy).

Actors and roles

The cast of The Green Mile has changed a lot in 22 years. One thing is invariable: both then and now they were and are undoubted talents.

The role of Paul Edgecomb was originally offered to John Travolta, but he turned it down. And Tom Hanks happily agreed: at that time he had no interesting offers. The actor liked the role, and he repeatedly admitted that there was a lot of personal in it.

Now Tom Hanks is busy in several projects. Recently, with his participation, the western “News from around the world” was released, in which the actor played the role of a cowboy journalist, a veteran of the Civil War.

Doug Hutchison, who played Percy, was 12 years older than his character at the time of filming. Prior to The Green Mile, the actor played bright but small roles in TV series. The actor created the most memorable images before the Green Mile in The Lawnmower Man, and in the series The Practice and The X-Files. After the film by Frank Darabont, his career skyrocketed. He played the role of Horace Goodspeed in the cult TV series Lost, and proved that he can play not only obnoxious antagonists.

The image of Percy was helped to create … boots. They were surprisingly squeaky, and Hutchison considered it an integral part of his nasty character. Now the actor has many projects. In his personal life, he also has complete order: 9 years ago he married his young fan.

Michael Clarke Duncan, the performer of the second main role, got into the film thanks to the patronage of Bruce Willis, whom he met on the set of Armageddon. Before meeting Michael, Darabont had already despaired: for filming, he needed not just a very tall and powerful dark-skinned man, but an actor who, with a formidable appearance, could be childishly touching and defenseless. Duncan was perfect for the role.

Prior to this, the actor took part in the series, but these were episodes that did not bring him either fame or money. He combined shooting with the work of a bodyguard and security guard.

According to Hanks, Michael was very easy to work with. The only hitch was during the mise-en-scene in which Coffey tries to rid Paul of his illness and grabs him by the groin: Duncan was very embarrassed by this. When Tom put an empty bottle in his pants, the scene was filmed quickly.

Unfortunately, Michael did not become a big “star”: after the “Green Mile” he continued to play minor roles in the series, worked in voice acting.

Michael Clarke DuncanMichael Clarke Duncan as John.

On the night of July 12-13, 2012, he had a heart attack. The life of the actor was saved by a friend who called an ambulance in time. After 1.5 months of treatment in a clinic in Los Angeles, Michael died of a progressive heart disease.

Movies similar to The Green Mile

Movies that remind me of The Green Mile:

  • “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994);
  • “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962);
  • “The Life of David Gale” (2001);
  • “Planet Ka-Pex” (2001);
  • “Powder” (1995);
  • “Dead Man Walking” (1995).

The cult film “12 Angry Men” partly echoes Darabont’s film: it deals with the imperfection of the judicial system and stereotypes that can break a person’s life; at the same time, the main types of our society are masterfully depicted there.

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