The news of Michael Clarke Duncan’s untimely passing has us all feeling very sad, and I could not agree more with his “Green Mile” director Frank Darabont when he said “Michael has left us far, far too soon. We lost a great man and a great spirit.” That big, warm smile of Duncan’s always seemed to exude a kindness that was genuine, and he is a man who achieved his dream of becoming a movie star and earned the right to be one. This makes his death all the more painful to accept.
Duncan left us with a number of unforgettable performances, but many agree his greatest role was as the gentle giant John Coffey in “The Green Mile,” and it earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Special thanks need to be given to Bruce Willis, who he co-starred with in “Armageddon,” who recommended Duncan for the role to Darabont.
The toughest scene for Duncan, however, in “The Green Mile” came when Coffey tries to save the two young girls he is later convicted of murdering.
“I had a lot of crying to do, a lot of howling to do, and it took a long time to do it and it really drained me,” Duncan said. “I’ll remember that day more so than anything else because as we were filming that, everybody was rushing toward me.”
What made the scene work for Duncan is how everything around him felt “so real,” and he remembered getting incredibly scared every time Darabont said “roll.”
When it came to preparing to play such emotionally charged scenes, Duncan credited the training he received from noted acting coach Larry Moss who taught him “how to dig within myself.”
“I’m an emotional person, a very emotional person,” Duncan said. “All those tears you see in the movie were mine.”
Darabont still vividly remembers how “immersive and incredible” the experience of making “The Green Mile” with Duncan was:
“What sticks most in my mind was his (Duncan’s) devotion to his craft and the strides he made as an artist during that time, which was beyond inspiring to those of us who took the journey with him,” Darabont said. “Never has an actor more richly deserved the recognition of an Academy Award nomination than Michael did for his performance as John Coffey.”
Rest in peace Michael, you will be missed.
Kimberly Nordyke, “‘Green Mile’ Director Frank Darabont Remembers Michael Clarke Duncan,” The Hollywood Reporter, September 3, 2012.
The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.
As of this writing, “The Shawshank Redemption” is the #1 rated movie on IMDB. I know it has been #1 many times in the past, and it has also been #2 right below “The Godfather.” It is based on a short novel by Stephen King called “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.” This film is now 27-years-old and has not aged a bit. It is the same with any great film. The more you watch it, the more you grow to appreciate it. The term “feel good” movie might sound overdone when it comes to certain movies, but this is one which does give the viewer hope and make you happy. Hope, after all, is a big theme present in this film.
“The Shawshank Redemption” introduces us to Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a banker who is serving two-life sentences in prison after being convicted of killing his wife and her lover. He claims to be innocent, but one of the running gags in the film is everyone in prison thinks they are innocent. Andy, however, does not seem like the type of individual who would commit murder as there is something about him which does come off as snobby and rather cold to the inmates. He does endear himself to Red, played by the great Morgan Freeman. Red is the guy who knows how to get things for people in prison. If you need a pack of smokes, chewing gum, or anything else, Red is the guy who is going to get it for you.
Red takes an interest in Andy because he sees there is more than meets the eye with him. Andy is smart, well-spoken and really takes in his surroundings. The two of them have great conversations about life in prison, life in general, and regrets. The film, of course, is narrated by Freeman. His narration is not overdone, however, as it adds to the film and enhances the story. The Shawshank prison is run by a warden who believes in the Bible and discipline, and he is played by Bob Gunton. The warden is ruthless, but he sees the value in having Andy at the prison because he’s running the prison’s books, doing taxes for the guards and is a very good hand who works cheaply.
For Andy, it is a chance to be able to create a library for Shawshank, allow certain freedoms for the prisoners there, and a chance to pass the time. Time is something which goes by incredibly slow when an individual is in prison. Time also allows the friendship and bond between Red and Andy to grow over the course of the film. Red keeps getting rejected for release and he believes hope is a dangerous thing, and he is not sure if he will be able to survive outside of prison. For many of the inmates, all they know is prison. By the time they get out, they wonder what use they will have in the outside world. It provides structure for them, even if it comes with the beatings, mental anguish and boredom.
There is a lot to like about “The Shawshank Redemption,” and it starts with Robbins and Freeman. They are the engine which keeps this film moving as it runs at almost two and a half hours. The film is never, ever boring, and there are also interesting supporting characters such as Brooks (James Whitmore), an elderly man who has spent nearly fifty years in prison and works in the library. There is also the wild and out of control Heywood, played with manic energy by William Sadler. There is Tommy, a young hot-shot who keeps getting in trouble, played by Gil Bellows. Even though the film is set in prison, there is no shortage of interesting characters to spend time with.
“The Shawshank Redemption” is a film with a huge heart that holds up very, very well nearly thirty years later. I would most certainly put it in my top ten favorite films of all time. It has heart, humor and a lot to say about the prison system and if it really helps those behind their walls. It also talks about the adjustment period from prison to the real world. There is a reason why so many end up back in prison after they are released. It’s also a gorgeous-looking film with a great sense of time and place. I’m very happy Warner Brothers decided to upgrade this film to 4K. The Blu-ray, which I also watched, looks better than the original release. This is a film that really makes one think about their life and how they are living it, each and every single day.
* * * * out of * * * *
4K/Blu-Ray Info: “The Shawshank Redemption” is released on a two-disc 4K/Blu-ray Combo Pack from Warner Brothers. It also comes with the digital copy of the film. The film has a running time of 142 minutes and is rated R for language and prison violence.
Video Info: For the 4K, the transfer comes in 2160p Ultra High Definition while the Blu-Ray comes on a 1080p High-Definition transfer. The 4K adds rich color and texture to the film. It makes the film really pop off the screen and shine. This is a tremendous improvement over the Blu-Ray.
Audio Info: For both the 4K and Blu-ray, it has DTS-HD MA: English 5.1 and Dolby Digital: French and Spanish Audio tracks. Subtitles are in English, French and Spanish. The audio is also very easy to understand and stands out on both the 4K and the Blu-ray.
Commentary by Frank Darabont
“Hope Springs Eternal: A Look Back at The Shawshank Redemption”
“Shawshank: The Redeeming Feature”
“The Shark Tank Redemption”
“Bogs Takes a Fall” Storyboards
“New Fish Arrive” Storyboards
Should You Buy It?
Even though the special features are basically the same as the original Blu-ray, this film is worth owning for the upgrade to 4K. Almost three decades later, this film is still incredibly moving. I could watch this film at least once a month, and I’d still enjoy it and get something out of it. This is one of those films where you are swept up in what is happening on screen from start to finish. There is not a dull or wasted moment on screen. It starts with the acting, as I mentioned, but major credit must also be given to Frank Darabont. He knows how to really slow things down and let them play out in a meaningful way. Did I mention the stunning cinematography by Roger Deakins? This is a must own for any film collector out there! I cannot recommend it enough.
**Disclaimer** I received a Blu-ray copy of this film from Warner Brothers to review for free. The opinions and statements in the review are mine and mine alone.