Analysing thriller trailers/films:’The Green Mile’

Posted: October 12, 2010 in Media

‘The Green Mile’ is one of my favourite films, and can be considered by many as a thriller. But I do think this particular film is unique to many others in their category/genre, so I thought I’d analyse it in the hopes of conveying just why it is so different in hopes of being influenced so that I can make my own trailer unique.

So here’s the trailer I’m analysing…

Genre…

Well from the trailer alone the audience can determine that this film will definitely be a hybrid- and I think the most prominent genres displayed in the trailer are as follows- Thriller/mystery/drama/fantasy. Why thriller? Well I think I stand by that ‘The Green Mile’ seems like a thriller because the characters are quite conventional of this genre- for example, we have criminals and prison guards, which is quite similar to character’s occupations in other thrillers (such as the detectives in ‘Se7en’ and the petty criminals in ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’). In other words- simply the good vs the bad. Except in this case, it’s  a little different because the relationships between prisoners and their guards are seen to be not conventional of the thriller genre (or perhaps any genre) at all. Mystery kind of ties in with the thriller genre. The fact the trailer doesn’t give a lot away and uses constant extreme close ups and reaction shots to hide various things from  the audience this implies the film will be mysterious and unpredictable. Drama? Well I kind of got that from the regular emotions displayed by the characters in this trailer- who mostly seem to be saddened by something that is tragic and awful (like murders and innocent people being punished). The music is also very moving and dramatic, and the characters seem to have close relationships as these ‘tragic’ things, whatever they may be, occur and I think all of these imply a hint of the drama genre to be valid in terms of the film itself. And finally fantasy- well it might be better fitting to say ‘religious’ but I say fantasy because the trailer does repetitively talk about ‘miracles’ happening and there are various things insinuated to happen to make the audience believe that Coffey is a character with ‘God like’ powers (although we aren’t told what they are exactly) and characters with powers that go beyond reality is usually a convention of a fantasy film.

Narrative…

Overall I think that this trailer is very clever in keeping the deep and inner narrative of the film away from the audiences so that not too much is given away-

At the start it is established the film is about the life of the guards (One in particular being Paul EdgeComb) who work in a block of a prison where the prisoners await death by the electric chair. This is shown through the various shots of the electric chair itself and the guards as they walk a prisoner to his death. Despite the horrible surroundings, and constant reminder of death, everything appears to be peaceful (the equilibrium)- the guards and prisoners have good relationships- which is mostly conveyed by Paul and Arlen’s conversation about heaven:

Arlen:‘…Would that be what heaven’s like?’

Paul: ‘I just about believe that very thing’

It shows that the guards are comforting to the prisoners and that the prisoners return this with their trust and open natures- they are willing to talk to them about what they think lies ahead of them when they die, their fears.

And then there appears to be the first problem or disturbance as you may call it:And this is the arrival of a new prisoner, who towers over even the biggest of the guards and seems to strike fear in all of the characters. He is revealed as John Coffey and is, like the other prisons, condemned to die by the electric chair. Later on we also hear he ‘killed (kills) a couple of little girls’ which is also shown by flashbacks of what seems to be the girl’s father, realising what has happened and dashing the crime scene and this, powered with Coffey’s size, makes him seem like he could cause a lot of trouble.

But of course he isn’t. In fact, he is strangely comes across as vulnerable, innocent and child-like- ‘Do you leave the light on after bed time?’ this immediately tells the audience that something is wrong here and makes them wonder what will happen to Coffey nad why he is acting this way. So this causes another problem: Paul recognizes the fact that Coffey is different. He thinks that the man is too gentle and too kind to have done such a horrible thing to two little girls, and therefore he begins to doubt Coffey’s guilt This is backed up by shots of Coffey holding a mouse (Mr Jingles) carefully in his hands and smiling, as well as Paul’s remarks of: ‘doesn’t seem to be any violence in him’ and ‘I don’t think he did it at all’

And then there appears to be another problem/disturbance. Which is despite what Paul feels and says, none of the other characters appear to believe his claims to Coffey’s innocence. Such as one simple statement of: ‘John Coffey is a murderer’ which may make the audience begin to doubt Paul’s claims and wonder whether he’ll be able to prove whether Coffey is guilty or not.

And to make the narrative even more problematic, then there are references to religion as well as implications that Coffey is some kind of ‘gift from God’ but why are the characters saying this? What has Coffey done to make them think this may be true? And if it is true, how will they deal with having to kill someone with such a gift? Which further asks the question as to whether Coffey will actually die or not.- ‘you’re talking about a miracle?’ and ‘I do not see God putting a gift like that in the hands of a murderer’

And there’s the woman, and it is implies something happens between her and Coffey be aren’t told what exactly- was it a miracle? We aren’t really told, but it must be important in some way or another to the plot.

Interestingly we are left on a complete cliffhanger, left wondering about the fate of John Coffey probably the most- Is he really innocent? Will he be freed, or will he be sentenced to death after all? And importantly, what are these ‘miracles’ that various characters (mostly the guards) keep referring to? Will they affect the characters lives? and so on. Basically I think these tow main things the trailer leaves hanging in the air is a good thing to do, because then the audience will be intrigued to know what the miracle is because it is unique and one in million. Thus insinuating they cannot miss the chance to see the film itself. We are also left with John Coffey’s life hanging in the air as well as the fact we are not sure whether he is innocent or guilty- so naturally audience’s will want to find out whether he really did do it or not and whether he gets killed also. 

USP…

I’d say perhaps the biggest USP of all that is implied by the trailer is the film’s originality. As I said before, films featuring relationships between characters that are authorities/those ruled by authorities are usually negative and violent ones. And here I think this is portrayed in a whole new way, breaking this convention completely and therefore giving the audience more interest into it as it is different t the usual representations we see. Because the relationships we see here between the guards (Like Paul and ‘Brutal’) and the prisoners (Like Arlen and John Coffey) is calm, relaxed and very close despite being on opposite sides of the board, this is what makes the film appear so unique and original.  I’d also say that it appears unpredictable in other ways as it can be argued to have ‘fantasy’ elements because of its references to ‘God’ and ‘miracles’, making the film seem like it will be impossible to predict because of this (as miracles are often unpredictable, as Paul says in his voice over:‘You never know when they’re going to happen…’).

But besides this there is one actor’s name, and that is the leading role of ‘Tom Hanks’ displayed in the titles. Tom Hanks being a very big Hollywood star, I’d say this is about the biggest USP a film could hope for in a trailer, as most (if not all) audiences could recognize this name and know at least one film they’ve liked with him in. Most notably I’d say any audience member who had enjoyed ‘Forrest Gump’ or ‘Saving Private Ryan’ would definitely not think twice about watching this film when they hear Tom Hanks is playing the leading role.

In the use of titles also, there is the mention of the film having the ‘Director of Shawshank Redemption’ which is again, one of the biggest USPs a trailer could hope for. ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ is perhaps one of the well known and most popular films in history, currently ranked #1 movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database and this, for obvious reasons, will get audiences in the cinema without even showing them the rest of the trailer. If they’ve liked that film, they’ll naturally think it is very likely they’ll like this one too. And it also interesting to point out that both film’s were originally novels that were written by Stephen King…so Shawshank is likely to be similar (in ways) to The Green Mile in ways because they are based on the stories written by the same author.

Target Audience…

From the trailer I’d say that men are a bigger target audience than women. Why? Well simply because the cast is very male dominated, and we can see that clearly from the trailer. All the guards are men, all the prisoners are men and there are only two female characters we see and only one female line spoken in the entire trailer. And if I was to be specific I’d say that men between 30-40 may  be the biggest target audience as the protagonist and most of the other main characters are around this age and therefore the audience would be able to relate to the characters better and the problems they face. Due to the fact the film is portrayed to be quite dramatic (shown by the constant talk of death, murder and the distraught faces of most of the characters) I’d say an appropriate age in general would be 18+. For example, the audience knows from the very beginning of the trailer, from the shot of the prison and the electric chair, the film will revolve around the men on death row. So we are likely to see executions and this is something not most people would regard as entertaining or would enjoy watching. For obvious reasons it is not targeted at children because the only children mentioned are the two little girls who are killed supposedly by Coffey and the themes the trailer insinuates the film will have are certainly not child friendly and require a mature approach to understand the deep hidden messages the film may have about God, Good and Evil and Love.

Music…

Although it wasn’t fast paced or conveying action as such, I really liked the music in this trailer. I liked it because it was unlike any other music in a trailer I have analysed and yet fitted the trailer and it’s intended atmosphere so perfectly. It was unique and slow- making the audience tense as well as making  sure it wasn’t to loud as to distract them from missing any important information about the film itself.

It started off with a light and slow melody as the trailer opened. It’s pitch was tension building and slightly sad- like we were expecting something tragic to happen and we, nor the characters, could prevent it from happening. Which goes on to make us want to watch on to see what this tragic thing is and how it’ll effect the equilibrium. Teamed up with this is growling thunder and strong rain in distance- which as pathetic fallacy, conveys the fact that something terrible may be about to happen or is happening at the very moment we are watching- which makes the film seem like it will be mysterious as well as foreboding

A bit louder, the music has adopted a more mysterious tone rather than a foreboding one as Joh Coffey first arrives. This makes the audience even more curious to know who he is, how he’ll effect the narrative, what crime he has been accused of etc etc. However, the music still has a hint of sadness, which could link to Coffey’s innocent remark about the lights to Paul and helps reinforce the audience’s sympathy for the character.

The music then gets much louder on the impact and connection between Paul and Coffey as Paul takes his hand. Sparks fly everywhere and the music emphasizes this scene’s importance but does not give it away as such. It also emphasizes ‘brutal’s reaction shot as he looks on with his mouth open wide and shock plastered on his face, making us wonder just what is happening to the characters and why.

But the music is undoubtedly the loudest and the most tragic when we see the reaction shot of Paul, with tears streaming down his face and him looking distraught at something- but we can’t see what. This suggests importance to his reaction and emphasizes the film’s atmosphere- that it will be upsetting and tragic- and will probably evoke a similar emotional response from the audience.

As the trailer comes to a conclusion and Paul’s voice over begins, the music begins to die down a little to show that Paul’s voiceover is vital for atmosphere as well as information. It then fades out altogether as the trailer ends, leaving the audience wondering just whether it all has a happy ending and the equilibrium is restored.

Camera work…

Overall I thought the camerawork was very helpful in conveying the mood of the film as well as the character types we can expect to see and so on-

To begin with we saw an establishing shot of a prison, telling us this is the main location for the film and making us think of some expectations we may have for a film if it is set within a prison (e.g- maybe a thriller?). Anyway, there is a slow zoom into the first building, which fades to reveal ‘E’ block- the main specific location of the entire film. And a slow zoom into the building lets the audience know that they are going inside- and they will begin to wonder what is happening within it’s walls.

There is then a very useful high angle shot- which I think may even be a bird’s-eye view shot- as guards escort a prisoner down the hall. This interestingly puts the prisoner and the guards on the same sheet of paper- they all seem vulnerable, and this portrays the fact the relationships in this film between the guards/prisoners is unique. I think this can also refer to the trailer’s constant references to God (especially in the dialogue) as it could indicate that God is watching over the characters or playing a part in the film in some way. But we don’t know how…

There is then a close up of a clock on a wall- this can portray to the audiences that time is running out for one of the character’s, or is vital to them (which links to the fact the prisoners are on death row) and this of course creates tension in the audience as they are left wondering just what is going on.

To go with this there is also a pan of different faces as they sit and seem to be waiting for something (which links to the shot of the clock)- but what? And how are these particular characters important to the film?

Getting deeper into the actual characters themselves and why things seem to be tense, there are shot reverse shots between the characters of Arlen Bitterbuck and Paul Edgecomb (can also be argued as establishing shots then) as they discuss religious things such as repenting and heaven. This links back to the bird’s-eye view shot, establishing to the audience the film will be rather religious and have references to God and also links to the close up shot of the clock- as this hints that the prisoner is on death row (he’s talking about heaven and repenting as he knows he is destined for death)

There is then an extreme close up on a character’s chained feet as they are led down a corridor. This keeps the character’s identity and mystery and captures the audience’s interest- they want to know who the character is and what role he’ll play in the film- how will he effect the set up of a story we’ve seen so far in the trailer?(Extreme close ups are also typical conventions of thriller films)

To build more tension and interest in the audience there are also uses of a lot of reaction shots from various characters- prisoners and guards alike (which are from ‘Brutal’, Arlen and Delacroix- but none of their names are mentioned). Their stunned and rather scared reactions to this new character who the audience hasn’t seen bulids tension as it looks as though this character is scary or threatening- so how will he affect the narrative? Will he be a big threat? The audience also wants to see for themselves what they look like…

There is then a use of shot reverse shot as the audience is properly introduced to John Coffey. Here there is a really significant and powerful reaction shot from Paul when Coffey asks him innocently: ‘Do you leave the light on after bedtime?’. By this Paul seems stunned- he can’t answer straight away because it is the last question he, or the audience, would have expected such a ‘scary-looking’ criminal to ask. This interests the audience as they know he’s a criminal (because he’s been sentenced to death), but how can a criminal come across as so innocent and vulnerable? I also think it allows the audience to connect further with the protagonist, Paul, because we can see he senses Coffey as different through his reaction shot, and the audience can too. There is then a reaction/three shot of the guards (not named again but they are ‘Brutal’, Dean and Harry) and the way the guards are all cramped into the shot shows that the guards all have a strong and close realtionship- so will this change throughout the film? And if does- why? And also seems like they are not sure either how to take Coffey’s question- but with what attitude will they greet this?

To connect us with Paul even further, there is then an Over the shoulder shot as he looks or perhaps talks to Coffey. The fact we’re looking over this character’s shoulder tells us we’re going to hear his point of view on this prisoner and reinforces that something isn’t right. To reinforce what Paul is thinking about Coffey (that he’s innocent) we get an extreme close up of Coffey’s hands, where a little mouse is sitting quite happily (Mr Jingles- though he isn’t really mentioned) and this conveys Coffey’s harmless and peaceful nature to the audience- like he wouldn’t hurt a mouse, let alone two little girls like he’s supposed to have done.

There are then lots of midshots of various characters (most not established to us properly) as they discuss Coffey’s innocence. This conveys to the audience that there may be a problem the protagonist has to face as it seems as though he’ll have to try and prove Coffey is an innocent man- but how will he do it?

A close up of Coffey makes the audience see that he has been crying badly- like he has seen something terrible/something terrible has happened. This makes the audience tense in the wonder of what the cause is to his seemingly never-ending tears. Paul takes Coffey’s hand, and this displayed by an extreme close up- this signifies the importance of the contact between them, but the audience is left really unsure of how it could be so important and what effect this is having on the characters. There also seems to be a big surge of electricity in the background- so how does this link? To pair with this, there is a reaction shot from one of the guards (‘Brutal’) as Paul takes Coffey’s hand- with his mouth open wide he looks shocked and scared- and this naturally makes the audience tense and want to know just what is going on in this scene.

There are then interestingly, two different shots which convey Coffey in an equally innocent and pure way. The first is a high angle shot  which is looking down on Coffey as he smiles – and this makes him seem small despite his obviously huge size, and this conveys his child like qualities, and furthermore, his innocence. There is then a little later, a low angle shot of Coffey, as he looks up at the dark-this can link to the references of God and  God’s work, implying Coffey may have something to do with this repetitive use of religious imagery in the trailer.

And a lot of reaction shots from the characters build tension because of the mystery of what character’s are looking at and why they are reacting in a certain way. Such as there is a reaction shot of Paul, in which he seems very tense and slightly shocked, making the audience wonder what has happened and to whom. There is then a reaction shot of another man( again, not established, this is the warden, Hal) smiling, and we wonder what has caused him to be so full of joy and how it links the narrative itself. We also see a reaction shot of  Coffey as he lifts his head and looks into the camera in a very frightened manner, which makes us wonder why he is scared and who is causing him to react this way.

There is a use of the technique of bird’s-eye view again, this time zooming slowly out to show the bigger picture of what is occurring in the shot itself. This insinuates a religious theme to the film as it appears someone ‘above’ is watching the characters- but are they doing something that makes them scared of being watched over by God? (Also, just a question audiences may ask- what has happened and why is a guard lying on the floor, his mouth wide open and an expression of utter fear on his face like he has seen the devil himself?!) The shot can also be regarded as a reaction shot aswell, as a few of the guards are looking up at the camera- seeming fearful and tense- but what exactly are they reacting to?

A mid /reaction shot shows the audience a distraught looking Paul, our protagonist, as sparks fly around him-  but what’s going on? And why does he look so upset?- It sets the film up to be mysterious and also rather upsetting. There is then a slow zoom into a close up of Paul as we hear his voice over about what ‘happened’ on the Green Mile. This tells the audience the film will probably display his POV on what happened and reinforces his protagonist role in the film.

And lastly there is a kind of long shot as we watch a man walk down the ‘Green Mile’ and Paul’s voice over speaks to us int he background. I like this shot as I find it links perfectly to the title and interestingly leaves a quite mysterious tone- who is the man, where is he walking, what is so significant about the ‘Green Mile’ etc etc. 

Pace…

Overall I’d say the pace of the trailer is rather slow paced, which really does portray that the film itself is going to have a similar pace, making it dark and tension building-

For example, from the very beginning the pace is slow as the prisoner (Arlen) talks of death and heaven. This makes the audience feel that this is the kind of ‘equilibrium’ – things are normal and calm (or as normal as they can be on the Green Mile) and nothing is disrupting the characters or causing them a problem as such. Yet. It also is tension building as the audience wonders what is going to happen to the characters and whether their calm equilibrium will be disrupted and what by.

The pace is still rather slow as the first ‘disruption’ seems to arrive. Literally. Perhaps it is a tiny bit faster as John Coffey arrives on the Green Mile and this represents that he may cause trouble or disrupt this calm equilibrium. But as the pace is till quite slow, it seems rather unlikely.

A little later on the pace gets a little faster as Paul realises Coffey’s innocence- this builds tension as the audience wonder whether Paul will be able to prove John’s innocence to the other characters and what problems this may cause in terms of narrative.

And then when the pace gets a little faster as Coffey says:‘Take my hand boss, you see for yourself’ and Paul does as he says. On this impact the pace speeds up. This builds tension as we wonder just what is going on and why it is so important. This is when it appears other characters are starting to  believe Paul about Coffey’s innocence. This builds even more disruptions in the equilibrium and builds more tension as the audience wonders whether Coffey will be freed or sentenced to death after all.

Next the pace slows down a little again as Paul’s voice over kicks in- not signifying the restoration in the equilibrium as much but more that we are being left wondering just how it is all going to end as we are not actually going to be told.

At last the pace slows down even more at the very slow at end  as we see the man walking down the green mile, which signifies the end of the trailer and the fact we are going to be left on a tense note as we are left unable to determine what the outcome of the film will be (will equilibrium be restored? etc)

On a more interesting note, the pace reflects the criminals lives: they have had their action in their life of crime, and this film represents a different part of their lives- the final part. How now, as they wait for death to come for them, their lives are slow as they ponder over the things they have done, and this makes it dark and tension building as well as a unique look on criminals and the things they go through.

Dialogue…

I’d say that the dialogue in this trailer was extremely important for conveying information to the audience about what narrative the film has, the themes it contains and the characters and their relationships. It also helps create tension and add to the dark atmosphere of the trailer (I’ve also high lighted parts I think are the most important)-

The trailer itself opens up with the character Arlen Bitterbuck, also known as the ‘Chief’,(although we aren’t told this in the trailer, I only know that because I’ve seen the film) asking:‘Do you think if a man sincerely repents all what he done wrong, that he might get to go back to the time in his life that was happiest for him and live there forever? Would that be what heaven’s like?’ –This is an interesting statement for the trailer to open up on as straight away, it lets the audience know that one of the key themes of the film is prison life, and most of the main characters are in fact prisoners themselves. And this interests the audience as personally, I feel that this question of heaven is very moving. It’s heart-felt and desperate, like the character knows he is destined to die, but is sorry for what he has done and really hopes that he has a chance of heaven.

Paul Edgecomb: ‘I just about believe that very thing’- This introduces the protagonist of the film, Paul Edgecomb, who is a guard at the prison in which the film is set. The fact he puts faith in Arlen’s ideas and hopes of what heaven will be like, saying he feels they same way, the audience can instantly insinuate that he will be a hero. And and it is a very interesting alternative to the relationship between prisoners and those who guard them we usually see depicted in films (Like in ‘Sleepers’ and ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’) and I think it is this that will really get the audience’s attention as this is one of the biggest things that make the film unique (which I’ll explain later when I move onto the actual film).

Paul Edgecomb: ‘John Coffey you have been condemned to die in the electric chair by the jury of your peers, sentence imposed by a judge in good standing in this state.’ …’Questions?’ – This introduces the audience to  John Coffey, another quite big and vital role in the film who happens to be a prisoner. At first this seems normal- Paul is telling him, and the audience, John Coffey has been to court and has been sentenced to execution by the method of the electric chair. But what the audience doesn’t hear is what he did to cause this sentence and this makes them intrigued to know more about him and what kind of relationship he will have with the guards.

John Coffey: ‘Do you leave the light on after bed time?’- This reply is intriguing as well as it is touching. Said in a child-like and vulnerable manner, this makes the audience sympathize with John, despite whatever he has done to warrant a death sentence. It really does convey the innocence and goodness in the character to the audience and makes them wonder whether he is really guilty of anything at all.

Paul Edgecomb: ‘I know violent men..I deal with them day in and day out. There doesn’t seem to be any real violence in him’And the protagonist seems to recognize this too, connecting him with the audience as they can relate to his doubts over whether John should really be executed or not. It hints that Paul with have an ongoing struggle with his moral duty (what is right and wrong- it’s wrong to kill a man he feels to be innocent) and his job (carrying out the executions of prisoners with that sentence). But what decision will he make in the end?

Man (reporter):‘Not until he kills a couple of little girls.’– Finally, this hints to the audience of what John Coffey is being sentenced for. This is quite hard-hitting as the audience will be interested in how a man as seemingly innocent and vulnerable as Coffey could kill two little girls. But the questions left unanswered for the audience are these: who were the little girls who were killed? And did he really do it? And will Paul discover whether he is innocent or not? Will anyone believe his pleas that Coffey is innocent? The only way they can find out is to watch on…

Other man (I think is called Harry): ‘John Coffey is a murderer.’– So now we constantly have other characters telling Paul, and in fact we can argue the audience too, that John is a murderer and there is no doubt that he carried out the crime. It conveys to the audience that Paul has a struggle in getting others to believe that Coffey is innocent. But will Paul make them see that Coffey is innocent, and if he does, how does he do it?

Paul:‘I don’t think he did it at all.’- Well the biggest question the audience will  be asking her is; why not? Why is Paul so adamant that Coffey is undoubtedly innocent of this crime when others are sure that he did do it? Does he have evidence? Mostly this just displays that Paul is sure of John Coffey’s innocence, we just know why this is.

John Coffey: ‘Take my hand boss, you see for yourself.’ – This is the first implication of the ‘fantasy’ themes of the film. It implies that Coffey is hiding something, and he is going to share it with Paul- but will it be something to do with the dead girls he supposedly murdered? And what will Paul ‘see’? We don’t really know for sure…but implies that this film is more than just one about a man being wrongfully sentenced to death, and this intrigues us.

Another man (I think is called Dean): ‘You’re talking about a miracle?’- This links to the last piece of the dialogue- making the audience even more interested to know just what else is going on. What you do want to know specifically is what the character is referring to- What ‘miracle’?

Paul: ‘I do not see God putting a gift like that in the hands of a man who’d kill a child…’- So now this leads the audience to think that the ‘miracle’ that was referenced to is because of something Coffey has done. But what did he do? And it is clear now Paul is in the belief that Coffey is some kind of ‘gift from God’ but what has made him think this? And will it affect the way he tries to prove Coffey’s innocence? 

Woman (Melinda): ‘I dreamed of you. We found each other in the dark.’- This really spins the audience off track- what is this refering to and what valid point does it make? We aren’t even introduced to the character who speaks the line, so why is it there? How does it link into the film? Is it important? Well honestly I think it just suggests even further that Coffey is like a ‘gift from God’ as it seems like the woman is describing Coffey himself. But that’s just an insinuation. 

Man (Reporter): ‘Like he dropped out of the sky’– References to Coffey again. It heightens the audience’s tension as there seems to be real evidence, somehow, that Coffey is not only innocent, but is a God-like figure. Though the audience doesn’t know how…and they want to know how various characters have come to this conclusion and what they’ll do in reaction to it.

Paul (May be a voice over): ‘Miracles are funny things. You never know when they’re going to happen. And when they happen in a place like this, that is the most unbelievable miracle of all….This is the story of a miracle…and it happened here, where I work…on the Green Mile.– Again, discussing miracles links to the ‘fantasy’ and often religious themes of the film. And although Paul does, in a sense, directly tell the audience a miracle does occur, right in the prison where he works, we don’t have any ideas as to what this miracle (or even miracles) is. And this interests the audience as they want to know what the miracle is that happens and how it affects the other character’s lives, thoughts and relationships. And also seems very interesting fro a miracle to occur in a prison (specially holding those sentenced to death by the electric chair) and this makes the film appear unique, making the audience wanting to see it even more.

Voice Over…

I think, at the end of the trailer, Paul Edgecomb’s comments on miracles is speaking directly to the audience. They are his thoughts, and not just a piece of dialogue taken from the film itself (I’m not sure if they’re actually in the film anyway?) but this way the audience can connect with Paul and this suggests that the film will be from his point of view and that he is the protagonist. It is like he is reflecting on what happened, and his reactions intrigue the audience as his words make whatever happens in the film appear like it will be amazing as well as shocking (‘most unbelievable miracle of all’):

‘Miracles are funny things. You never know when they’re going to happen. And when they happen in a place like this, that is the most unbelievable miracle of all….This is the story of a miracle…and it happened here, where I work…on the Green Mile.

(On another note I think this also cleverly works into the title of the film, which I think catches audience’s attention as it is clever and therefore makes the title stick in their minds).

Special Effects…

To be honest I don’t think the trailer uses special effects frequently, which I think is rather strange as it is portrayed to be a partly ‘fantasy’ film. There are of course, effects of lightning at the beginning of the trailer to use pathetic fallacy and portray the sad and tense mood the film has. And of course there are the sparks and surge of electricity to portray the ‘fantasy’ genre and imply the ‘miracles’ the trailer constantly references to.  But the use of not actually featuring a lot of special effects insinuates the film will focus more on plot and narrative than CGI and other effects films usually use.

Credits & Intertitles…

 The titles I thought weren’t THAT effective towards the audience- there were used more for USPs. Such as ‘Director of the Shawshank Redemption’ is a big USP that the trailer tries to get across in hopes of catching most audience’s attention as it is a very well known and popular film. White makes the titles stand out from the creamy brown background and also conveys the amount of innocence and vulnerability the film itself will portray in its characters. There is then the title of ‘Tom Hanks’ (the only other title apart from the title of the film itself) which in black letters, stands out from the background as well as connoting the film may have dark themes and villainous and brutal characters to contrast the vulnerable ones. Similarly, the title of the film, ‘The Green Mile’ is written in the same font and colour. The basic font of the titles in the trailer can convey how the film is not trying to be ‘flashy’ with clever special effects and so on, but it focuses more on the story and narrative implied to get the audience hooked on wanting to see the film. It can also be seen as conveying the film’s mystery elements as the titles don’t give away that much to the audiences- so it could be that this way, they’re trying to show that if you want answers, you’ll have to watch the film as they are giving away nothing in this trailer.

 

The film….

And when we compare it to the film- we can see that the trailer is brilliant for implying everything but saying absolutely nothing. Making the audience insinuate what may happen but are still left not knowing for sure..

And one thing I found interesting was the limited amount of characters from the film that the trailer introduces, leaving out those who have quite a big role within the film. Such as the following that the trailer either doesn’t introduces at all or does so on a small scale- 

Percy Wetmore

I was actually (rather pleasantly) surprised when I realised that the trailer does not, in any way, introduce or establish the character of Percy Wetmore to the audience. But why don’t they introduce him? Afterall, he is one of the first characters we’re introduced to when Paul goes into his ‘flashback’ and is in a lot of important scenes. But I think the main reason Percy isn’t introduced in the trailer is because he is one of, if not the biggest, disrupters of the peace and equilibrium of the film. I’d go even further to say he is one of the villians- ruthless and unsympathetic, he completely contradicts the unique and caring ‘prisoner/guard’ relationship the trailer portrays. And I think therefore by introducing him this would ruin the trailer’s ‘unique’ and sympathetic feel and atmosphere. Also, by not introducing him, the audience cannot tell that in fact most of the disruptions the good guards face aren’t caused by violent or rowdy prisoners (except Will Bill of course) but are created more by Percy, a fellow guard, and I think audiences aren’t able to predict this from the trailer so it would therefore perhaps shock them and interestingly turns the sympathetic representation of the relationships on its head. From the trailer I also don’t think audiences could predict what Percy is capable of when they first start watching the film, so therefore the horrendous things he does would further shock the audience when they come to watch the film. Which are listed as follows-

He constantly verbally abuses Del, swearing at him/calling him names/making fun of him, (Which is quite typical of a thriller and authority/criminal relationship, but Percy truly has no valid reason for his words nor actions. So he is quite something else)

He breaks 3 of Del’s fingers because Del simply grinned at him (Spiteful, he abuses his power)

 Messes up Del’s execution on purpose, causing him the film’s most horrendous execution, (Truly disgusting- deliberately disobeys orders which leads to Del having a horrifying death. He had no valid reason for it- he is just full of unexplained hate and has to take it out on those under his power- portraying that like all villains- he loves to have power over others)

He stamps on Mr Jingles out of spite and hatred, (which is cruel tot he mouse and Del- he knows how much Del is attached to the mouse, so he seizes his opportunity and boasts in being able to kill it at last.)

Just before Del is about to be executed, he tells him there is no such place as Mouseville (Really I personally think this is one of the most horrible things he does. Del is at his most vulnerable, ready to die, and Percy strikes, destroying whatever hope or dreams he had- any nice thought he could cling on to as he prepared to death- which was that Mr Jingles would go to ‘Mouseville’ and Percy ruins it all. And nothing can be done but for Del to die distraught, his thoughts lonely and unsure for the future of his pet mouse.)

All these things are atrocious even if they are implied by the trailer. But they’re not, and if the audience doesn’t see them coming at all (which they don’t from the trailer) it makes his actions all the most shocking and horrific.

Percy’s character also interestingly flips this prisoners=bad, guards=good representation, but differently to what is implied in the trailer. The spiteful things he does to the prisoners (particularly Delacroix) helps us realise that not all authority figures are caring and sympathetic towards those have a certain amount of control over, which is a stereotypical representation of an authority figure abusing his power (like in other thrillers such as ‘Sleepers’). But what we also don’t see is that Percy is an absolute coward, scared mostly by Will Bill and Brutal, and his horrible ways, in the technique maybe of karma, eventually catch up on him (which isn’t very unique either, but the way he gets a taste of his own medicine is!)

Eduard Delacroix

On the subject of missing and un-established characters, I found it quite intriguing that there is no mention of Eduard Delacroix either- we see a few shots of him in the trailer but he has no lines and his name isn’t mentioned at all. I think this is helpful in deceiving the audience to think that, due to the trailer, he won’t play a big part in the film when he kinda does. He is one of the prisoners we feel most sympathetic for, which is as I said, one of the things that makes ‘The Green Mile’ unique of its genre. So why do we feel sorry for him although he’s a criminal and clearly, once upon a time, did something horrible enough to warrant a death sentence? (and we don’t actually hear his crime in the film at all which would probably add to the entire mysterious feel of the film) Well ultimately because the previously mentioned character Percy Wetmore has an unjustified vendetta against him- constantly attacking him and abusing his power as an authority over Del while doing so.

Why I also think it was a good move for the trailer to leave Del out is the fact that in the film, his attachment and relationship with the guards is one of these close and touching ones which is quite unconventional for the genre and pretty much any film in my opinion. For example I’d say one of the best examples of this touching ‘prisoner/guard’ relationship is the night before Del is to be executed and he, Paul and Brutus are discussing where Mr Jingles will be kept when after he is killed-

Paul:‘Well what about Dean? He’s got a little boy, he’d just love to have a pet mouse I bet.’

Delacroix:‘How can a boy be trusted with Mr Jingles? He will forget to feed him. I keep up with his training *French that I cannot understand, sorry*’

Paul:‘Alright then, I’ll take him. Me.’

Delacroix:*laughs*Merci Beacoup thankyou kindly, but you live out in the woods. Mr Jingles, he be scared to live out in the big woods.’

Brutus:‘How about Mouseville?’

Delacroix:*confused*Mouse ville?’

Brutus: ‘Tourist attraction down in Florida. Tallahassee I think, is that right Paul, Tallahassee?’

Paul:’Yeah, yeah Tallahassee, it’s just down the road from the dog university’

Brutus: ‘Do you think they’d take Mr Jingles? You think he’s got the stuff?’

Paul: ‘Well he is pretty smart.’

Delacroix: ‘What is Mouseville?’

Brutus: ‘Tourist attraction I said. They got this big tent you go into…’

Delacroix: ‘You have to pay?’

Brutus: ‘Are you sh*ttin me? ‘Course you pay.Dime a piece, two cents for the kids.And inside the tent they got this mouse city…with little windows so you can look in. Plus they got the Mouseville all-star circus. Yeah, there are mice there that swing on trapeze, mice that roll barrels, mice that stack coins…’

Delacroix: ‘ *laughs happily*Yeah, that’s it. That’s the place for Mr Jingles’ *looks down at his mouse* ‘You gonna be a circus mouse after all. Gonna live down mouse city in Florida.’

 And I think this a beautiful example of how close the relationship between Del and Brutus/Paul is. They care about him so much that they completely make up a place that would be absolutely perfect for his companion to stay after his execution. Even if it is a completely made up place, Del seems to believe and put faith into it, ultimately meaning that Paul and Brutus are giving him something happy to hold onto before his death, and that way his death will be as calm and as un-foreboding as possible (because he no longer has to worry about what will happen to Mr Jingles when he is gone- which is all he has left to care for- because Brutus and Paul have promised to take him to the best possible place, giving him strength to cope with what awaits him the next day. It gives Del strength because he knows that although he is going to meet a terrible end, his companion will live on and will be cared for Brutus and Paul.)

And then he portrays even more of this touching relationship on the actual night of his death, through what he says to Brutus and Paul-

Delacroix:‘Gonna take him to Florida to that Mouseville?’ (about Mr Jingles)

Brutus:‘We’ll go together most likely, maybe take a little vacation time.’

Delacroix:‘People’ll pay a dime apiece to see him. Two cents for the kids, ain’t that right Boss Howell?’

Brutus:‘That’s right Del.’

Delacroix:‘You’re a good man Boss Howell. You too Boss Edgecomb. I sure wish I coulda met you guys someplace else.’

And when Del is just about to be executed, he reminds the guards one last time not to forget about their promise to take Mr Jingles to Mouseville, which shows that he has a close relationship with them and trusts them to look after the only thing he has left to love and care for- his pet mouse. This also displays how Percy spitefully attacks Del in his most vulnerable state, which could never be predicted from the trailer alone as neither of the characters are introduced let alone the relationship they share-

Delacroix:‘Don’t forget about Mouseville’

*Paul nods as if to say he and Brutus won’t forget*

Percy:‘Hey, hey. There’s no such place. That’s just a fairy tale these guys told you to keep you quiet. Just thought you should know, f*ggot.’

To this, Del doesn’t answer. He just breaks down and cries as Brutus and Paul look horrified that Del will die with the troubling and conflicting thoughts of what will happen to his beloved pet mouse. So instead of dying calmly, full of hope and trust that Mr Jingles will live a good life after he is dead, he dies full of confusion and doubt at what future his pet has.

And then, to make us even more sympathetic of the prisoners, Del mostly, he suffers the most cruel and terrifying death we could possibly imagine just because Percy decide to punish the Cajun for laughing at him in earlier scenes. And no matter what he did- he did in no way, deserve that. And this cannot possibly be predicted by the trailer as none of the characters are introduced, so therefore it will be much more shocking and emotional moment when the audience come to eventually watch the film. Even the woman in witness crowd for Del’s execution (we are made to feel she is a relative of one of his victims for whatever crimes he has done) who at first states (about Del)- ‘I hoped he’s good an’ scared.’ and then, when it is clear Del’s execution has gone terribly wrong and he begins screaming in absolute agony, she is rooted to her seat, and looks shocked and tearful- like she did want Del to be punished, but in no way like this.

The other guards, particularly Brutus ‘Brutal’ Howell

I thought that it was also interesting how the trailer does not introduce Brutus ‘Brutal’ Howell either. Because in the actual film he does play a big role- particularly as a helper who both comforts victims/heroes and punishes the villians- For example, he hates Percy and uses his strength to punish him for the things he does. Such as the following:

Percy: ‘I think of it (The Green Mile) as a bucket of p*ss to drown rats in. That’s all. Anybody don’t like it, hmm? You can kiss my a**.’

*Brutus grabs Percy’s throat and slams him against the wall*

Percy (after Del’s execution has gone terribly wrong): ‘I didn’t know the sponge was supposed to be wet.’

*Brutus punches Percy in the face*

 And this is probably why Brutus isn’t mentioned in the trailer, because Percy isn’t and therefore Brutus’ retaliations and feelings towards this spiteful character can be more moving for the audience to watch when they come to see the actual film.

What is also interesting about the character is that despite his intimidating size he is a good representation of how guards and authorities have to be two sides of the same coin- they have to be ‘brutal’ in hours of need, but they also have to be genuinely comforting and caring to the prisoners so that the final chapter of their life is a calm and happy one.

For example, he regularly comforts prisoners, especially Delacroix (he makes up the Mouseville for Mr Jingles to live in after Del is executed, he goes with him to show some people what Mr Jingles can do etc) he inquires on Paul’s illness and practically helps out whenever he is needed- such as when Will Bill Wharton arrives and tries to strangle Dean to death, Percy stands there, too cowardly to intervene and then Brutus takes control of the situation, knocks out Will Bill and helps Dean also.

Nor Will Bill Wharton.-

Another character who I think was a very smart move to leave out in trailer was ‘Wild Bill’ Wharton. This is because in the film we are made to think he is ‘dr*gged’ so to speak  when he arrives and then it is revealed he isn’t and he attacks the guards, almost choking Dean to death. And therefore as we don’t see him at all in the trailer, the audience doesn’t know from when he is introduced that he is a hell raiser and loves to play pranks- his pretending to be dr*gged being his first in the film. The audience has no initial ideas from the trailer of what kind of character he’ll be so when he appears harmless and then turns into this reckless and relentless man, this could shock and interest audiences as they may not have seen it coming. 

I also think that ‘Will Bill’ Wharton is one of the biggest equilibrium disrupters of the entire film. And from the trailer we can’t see that- all we are implied to think is that Coffey’s innocence disturbs the equilibrium, but when we watch the film we see it contains a series of different conflicts as such. And Will Bill is a good example of this as he doesn’t have a good relationship with the prisoners (calls Coffey racist names, sings about Del’s horrible execution in glee) nor the guards (p*sses on Harry’s feet, spits moonpie in Brutus’ face, chokes Dean half to death etc etc) and is generally very rowdy and violent.

And furthermore it was even better idea to leave his character out of the trailer completely as he eventually leads the audience to see that John Coffey definitely is innocent.When Wharton grabs John, John sees that it was in fact him that killed two young girls he is being sentenced to death for supposedly killing. And then Coffey shows Paul, and naturally the audience see for themselves. And it is better not to imply this in the trailer itself as it will make the audience more shocked when they see it was ‘Wild Bill’ all along and we do want there to be some implication or doubt that Coffey may not be innocent at all, because this way the trailer will deceive the audience and make them unsure of the character’s innocence..

The constant hints to miracles, but no actual showing of them…

One of the most brilliant things about the trailer in comparison to the film is that we understand that the film will contain miracles- that’s obvious. But the thing is these miracles aren’t explained or shown to us. And that is one of the most intriguing things about the trailer- we want to know what the miracles are and which characters they affect. But the only way the audiences can know for sure is to watch the film, where there a quite of few of them, and they are as follows:

Getting rid of Paul’s urinary infection (not implied at in the trailer at all),

Bringing Mr Jingles back from the dead after he is stamped on by Percy (no indication),

Getting rid of Hal Moore’s wife’s tumor (it’s implied a woman is helped but we don’t know who or how),

 Making Percy see what Will Bill did, which made him shoot him and kill him (definitely not implied by the trailer!),

Giving Paul and Mr Jingles the gift of life  through making them feel and see the things he does- Del’s pain as he was executed, what Wild Bill did (In no way implied in the trailer, apart from where John asks Paul to take his hand).

The fact that even though John is innocent and clearly a gift from God, he is executed

Probably one of the biggest questions the audience will be asking all the way through the film is will John Coffey die even though he performs miracles, helps the innocent and vulnerable and is clearly innocent of the crime he is being charged for? Well I don’t think it is very obvious that he will die, as the trailer doesn’t really touch on his death as such, more his charge. And when he is going to be killed it is much more dramatic than the audience may think, as John reveals near his death that he is sick of feeling all the hate in the world and people killing each other through their love,  like Wild Bill said to the girls:‘You love your sister? You make any noise, you know what happens. I’m gonna kill her instead of you. Understand?’ and John explains further by saying that he doesn’t care much about dying because at least he will be away from all the nasty things people do to each other that he can feel- ‘ I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world every day. There’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time. Can you understand?’ ( which is like he says about Del after he is executed: ‘No matter what happened, Del’s the lucky one.’ implying that Del is lucky now, he is free from all the hate others, like Percy, were attacking him with)

 ‘He kill them with their love. That’s how it is every day, all over the world…’

And I don’t think this could be predicted at all as the trailer doesn’t really give a definite truth of Coffey’s innocence so therefore we are left totally unsure whether he’ll die or not and whether, more importantly, if it’ll be true justice or not.

On another note I’d like to add that the guards reactions to Coffey’s execution couldn’t be predicted by the trailer either (well apart from Paul’s, who we are made to feel is really insistent Coffey is innocent) because none of the guards really voice their opinion on it and if they do, they seem not to agree with Paul or are a bit sceptical/confused about it all. And from that we cannot predict that all of the guards cry at Coffey’s execution. Tearful and in fear they are killing a gift from God, they even comfort John (which isn’t expected after watching the trailer):

John (after walking into the execution room and seeing the witnesses):‘There’s lotsa people here that hate me, lots. I can feel it. It’s like bees stingin’ me’

Brutus:‘Then feel how we feel then. We don’t hate you. Can you feel that?’

The fact the film is a part of the protagonist’s past- past tense, told by an old Paul Edgecomb.

And I think this is a good thing to leave out of the trailer too. Although it is implied a little through Paul’s voiceover in the trailer that these events on the Green Mile lie in the protagonist’s past, audiences cannot foresee from the trailer alone that the film will be about a man, now in a retirement home, basically explaining to his friend about the time he used to be a prison guard on death row, and describing the prisoners he looked after and the miracles he saw. And I think this is what makes the film unique as the narrative has already kind of happened, but the protagonist is, in effect,  simply telling us what occurred (like in the book where it is written entirely in first person) and I think, especially at the end of the film, this has a better dramatic effect. As we can compare this day and age to the year and occurrences of 1935 and it signifies how long Paul and Mr Jingles having being living with the curse of life ( another thing the trailer does not mention at all but that is good because it is a shocking ending to have- the main character wishing for death, utterly alone as all he knew and loved have since died. And if the trailer revealed how the miracles are still affecting Paul and Mr Jingles all these years later I don’t think they’d be much point in watching the film itself.)

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Comments
  1. Werwolfin says:

    Very good and sad movie…ist the best! Stephen King is king 😉

  2. Kim Hitson says:

    I have read a ton of Stephen Kings books growing up but this was a good book and an equally good movie. It was pretty close to what I imagined and that speaks volumes.

    • hannahb93 says:

      Thanks for the comment 🙂
      Yeah I’ve read the book too, and although I’d seen the film beforehand, I thought it was brilliant.
      And I felt the film is pretty much the best adaptation they could have possibly made 🙂
      x

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