At the film's end, Sinise reveals that the whole film was a flashback. The opening shots of George in the moving boxcar are shown to be George after he has been forced to shoot his friend. Riding aimlessly to someplace different, George is now completely alone. The shots emphasize one of the novel's primary themes of the loneliness of the individual.
St. Pierre, Brian. John Steinbeck: The California Years. San Francisco: Chronicle, 1983.
Steinbeck builds foreshadowing into the structure of his story. The dead mouse that George forces Lennie to surrender at the start of the story, for example, prefigures the puppy and the woman that Lennie's strength will later kill. The riverbank that, at the start of the story, provides a haven for the two men, ultimately becomes the scene of the story's tragic ending. The simple story and highly theatrical presentation helped make it an instant bestseller and obvious material for a play.
Milestone's film version adheres more closely to Steinbeck's novel than have any other attempts to dramatize this simple, powerful story. Yet Sinise's, despite some weaknesses, does manage to portray the book's lyricism and drama. Each conveys a powerful sense of time and place, including the time and place in which each was filmed. Milestone's film is very much a product of late 1930s' Hollywood: filmed in crystal-sharp black and white, using exquisite studio lighting. Sinise's version is both richer and less refined: the landscape is richly colored, while the characters and their costumes are more authentically seedy. That both can effectively tell Steinbeck's story in different ways is a tribute to a remarkable, enduring book.
Parini, Jay. John Steinbeck: A Biography. New York: Holt, 1995.
Despite George's warnings, Lennie has a run-in with Curley and, eventually, accidentally kills the girl when he becomes frightened by her struggles. George recognizes that he cannot protect his friend from a lynching or a l