P is for Prison
Guest Review by Mike Flores
A supernatural story being discussed as a shoo-in for Best Picture? Believe it, friends, and what a way to end this century.
Not that I didn’t step into the theater without a great deal of trepidation. The movie is three hours long. It stars Tom “Toy Story” Hanks. It’s made by Frank “The Shawshank Redemption” Darabont. I hate the fact that films today lack pacing (I blame television showing films with commercials for so many years before cable), but I must confess that I didn’t check my watch for the entire length of the movie. This is quite a good trick, as most of the film takes place in prison. The plot, the acting — it all comes together and pulls you in so deep, the time is the last thing you think about. There is even a gruesome failed execution that wouldn’t have made it onto the cable version of Tales From the Crypt.
Tom Hanks was in the groundbreaking Saving Private Ryan. Groundbreaking because the violence that the MPAA let its filmmakers get away with has spilled into all movies, low budget or high. Here Hanks plays a humanitarian Louisiana prison guard in 1935 who comes to believe that a black prisoner on death row is innocent. Well, this is definitely a fantasy. In those days, Southern justice for a black man that killed two white girls would have been a rope — if you were lucky. Furthermore, most of the police and prison guards who weren’t Catholic were in the Klan, so even if you escaped the noose you did not want to be in prison.
The prison guards are characterized with such humanity that I was able to suspend disbelief. I don’t want to give away what makes this a supernatural movie; it happens with a subtlety that I frankly never knew Stephen King was capable of. If director Darabont is content with being the Robert “Day the Earth Stood Still” Wise of the 90s, so be it. I wish him continued success in the new century.
If you have already seen the film and were wondering, yes, I choked up at the end. It is hard to believe that just a few years ago everyone in Hollywood wanted happy endings. And this film comes out during the holidays! It was a very tough walk into the lobby at the end of the movie. But I would happily see it again.