In this Stephen King adaptation Tom Hanks plays kindly Depression-era prison officer Paul Edgecombe whose multifarious duties include keeping in order psychotic co-worker Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchinson), lending support to Warden Hal Moores (James Cromwell) and making sure that Ol'Sparky - the clink's electric chair - is in suitably fatal working order.
Then he meets new inmate John Coffey (Armaggedon's Michael Clarke Duncan) - a slow-witted giant scheduled for that one-way trip on Ol' Sparky after being convicted of brutally murdering two young girls - who appears to have healing powers that border on the miraculous.
And so the questions begin. Did Coffey kill those kids? Can he be smuggled out of stir to help Warden Moore's terminally ill wife? Does this film really have to be three hours and nine minutes long? In the latter case, at least, it isn't spoiling anything to give away the answer. And the answer is, No. Indeed, where most film-makers might have pared back King's verbiage Darabont positively revels in the opportunity to depict all manner of unnecessary back story while pacing the whole shebang in a manner familiar to devotees of snail-racing. Not that the result is by any means unenjoyable. Most of the acting is faultless - particularly from Morse as Hanks's outsized sidekick Brutal - while there are just enough twists and turns to make you almost forget how long it takes to navigate them. But, in his attempt to create something truly epic, there is no doubt that the director has mistaken size for quality with bum-numbing consequences.