Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
USA, 1987. Cinecom Entertainment Group, Film Gallery, Goldcrest Films International, Red Dog Films. Screenplay by John Sayles. Cinematography by Haskell Wexler. Produced by Peggy Rajski, Maggie Renzi. Music by Mason Daring. Production Design by Nora Chavooshian. Costume Design by Cynthia Flynt. Film Editing by Sonya Polonsky. Academy Awards 1987. Independent Spirit Awards 1987.
One of John Sayles’s most impressive achievements as a filmmaker is this excellent document of the 1920 coal miner’s strike of Matewan, West Virginia. Chris Cooper plays a Union leader from outside who comes to the town to help ease the situation and assist the labourers towards a successfully formed Union and agreement with their employers. While trying to accomplish this, however, he has to contend with the divisions between the white, black and Italian immigrant groups that make up the labourers and who don’t get along too well with each other. Grand things are accomplished in the smaller moments in this absolutely riveting film, one which also features an early performance by Mary McDonnell that practically steals the show. Excellent acting and character depth all around, something we’ve come to expect from Sayles’s movies.