||"We think of this place like an intensive care ward of a hospital." So says Paul Edgecomb, who is in charge of Death Row in a Louisiana penitentiary during the Depression. Paul (Tom Hanks) is a nice man, probably nicer than your average Louisiana Death Row guard, and his staff is competent and humane -- all except for the loathsome Percy, whose aunt is married to the governor, and who could have any state job he wants, but likes it here because "he wants to see one cook up close." One day a new prisoner arrives. He is a gigantic black man, framed by the low-angle camera to loom over the guards and duck under doorways. This is John Coffey ("like the drink, only not spelled the same"), and he has been convicted of molesting and killing two little white girls. From the start it is clear he is not what he seems. He is afraid of the dark, for one thing. He is straightforward in shaking Paul's hand--not like a man with anything to be ashamed of...The movie is a shade over three hours long. I appreciated the extra time, which allows us to feel the passage of prison months and years. Stephen King, sometimes dismissed as merely a best-seller, has in his best novels some of the power of Dickens, who created worlds that enveloped us and populated them with colorful, peculiar, sharply seen characters. King in his strongest work is a storyteller likely to survive as Dickens has, despite the sniffs of the litcrit establishment...By taking the extra time, Darabont has made King's The Green Mile into a story which develops and unfolds, which has detail and space. The movie would have been much diminished at two hours--it would have been a series of episodes without context. As Darabont directs it, it tells a story with beginning, middle, end, vivid characters, humor, outrage and emotional release. Dickensian.