"The book was better" has been the complaint of many a reader since the invention of movies. Frank Darabont's second adaptation of a Stephen King prison drama (The Shawshank Redemption
was the first) is a very faithful adaptation of King's serial novel. In the middle of the Depression, Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) runs death row at Cold Mountain Penitentiary. Into this dreary world walks a mammoth prisoner, John Coffey (Michael Duncan) who, very slowly, reveals a special gift that will change the men working and dying (in the electric chair, masterfully and grippingly staged) on the mile . As with King's book, Darabont takes plenty of time to show us Edgecomb's world before delving into John Coffey's mystery. With Darabont's superior storytelling abilities, his touch for perfect casting, and a leisurely 188-minute running time, his movie brings to life nearly every character and scene from the novel. Darabont even improves the novel's two endings, creating a more emotionally satisfying experience. The running time may try patience, but those who want a story, as opposed to quick-fix entertainment, will be rewarded by this finely tailored tale. --Doug Thomas
On the DVD
Listen to our interview with Frank Darabont.
Anyone who has seen this Oscar-nominated film knows Frank Darabont likes to t-a-k-e h-i-s t-i-m-e. He certainly does the same in filling all three hours of his commentary track which he recorded over several sessions. Darabont has studied other DVDs and purposely does not repeat tidbits covered in the excellent new 90-minute documentary on author Stephen King and the making of the film. Other solid segments are two deleted scenes, a never-used teaser trailer, and Michael Duncan Clarke's screen test. The highlight is two remarkable tests of Tom Hanks in old-age makeup. Both are very credible, but it was decided to use another actor. The outcome is a DVD that puts the "special" back into the special edition. --Doug Thomas