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As important move about the American spirit as there is
TheBlueWolf14 April 2002
This movie was obviously made as a labor of love, by someone whose ideals are deeply American. Director Sayles masterfully documents the nuances of the ageless conflict between those that would control others for profit and those that would not let themselves be controlled and thereby captures the essence of a battle that still rages between the American ideals of freedom and free enterprise.

Historically, the film documents a victory (some say massacre) by the miners over the power brokers and thugs of the early 20th century coal mining industry. Taken in the overall context of the history of Appalachian coal mining, however, what it truly documents is one battle in a war that was eventually lost when the government once again came down on the side of commerce as opposed to human dignity at the battle of Blair Mountain.

Fortunately for us, Mr. Sayles seems all too keenly aware of the tremendously important under-currents of this historical event. Rather than merely documenting the conflict and violence of this historic event, he artfully imbues the story with human elements of betrayal, regret, loss, resolve, and ultimately, sacrifice in the name of what is right and just. He reminds us that righteousness often comes with a price and that the real war is never won or lost but rages on forever, claiming the salvation and damnation of souls in it's wake.

This film is a masterpiece and deserves its due. It represents everything good about film-making and should hold a special place in the hearts of all free Americans aspiring to the ideals expressed in our constitution.
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An American Masterpiece
rrenon24 June 2002
John Sayles is a national treasure! Ferociously independent --most of his films are made with privately organized funds-- and working with what has become a repertory company --most of his actors return to work with him for less than they would get elsewhere-- he has never made an uninteresting film. Even when his films may vary in overall quality, from merely good to great, they are each interesting and arresting.

My mother was an organizer in the southwest coal counties of West Virginia, arriving there in 1926 (having left college), near the end of the coal wars. Her only comment on the film, when I screened it for her before she died in 1988,was that the working conditions and the living conditions of the miners and their families were far worse than depicted in the film. She always spoke at union meetings surrounded by a body guard of 10-20 armed miners. A number of her young colleagues were assassinated (there's no other appropriate word for how they died).

The murder of Sid Hatfield, the town sheriff of Matewan, in the year following the year portrayed in the film, in broad daylight on the McDowell County courthouse steps precipitated the largest insurrection in the U.S. since the Civil War. More than 10,000 armed miners from the six coal counties, descended on the court house looking for the private detectives and law "enforcement" officers who were the assassins. They took over the court house and the town, and threatened open insurrection. Thew film is a great film. Unfortunately, like most of John Sayles's films, it did not play to a large audience.
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An overlooked masterpiece
vic-454 March 1999
Looking back to 1987 I have to wonder why this masterpiece was not nominated for Best Picture. But then again, this is the same institution that voted for films such as Braveheart and Forrest Gump. Is the Academy afraid of John Sayles?

See Matewan for its wonderful portrayal of the events that occurred in West Virginia in the 1920's. See this film for its phenomenal cast. See it for its beautiful cinematography. There is an ethereal glow that envelopes the characters and buildings of Matewan.

There is also an underlying allegorical depiction of Christ and his followers. Chris Cooper is a saint. He reminds me of Gary Cooper a little bit. He has such an unusual handsome face. He is the protagonist joined by James Earl Jones, Mary Mcdonnell, and Will Oldman. Perhaps the most fascinating character is that of the Sheriff portrayed by Strathairn. He is the angel on the black horse who carries with him the wrath of God. Just watch him stand up against the bad guys.

The main antagonistic characters are pure evil. They terrorize the inhabitants of Matewan with juvenile antics.

Please see this film and be prepared to have it imbedded in your mind for the rest of your life. This is what great film making is about
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"We're Gonna Have The Union!"
stryker-524 May 2000
In the West Virginian coalfields in the 1920's, a group of miners is determined to organise itself into a labour union. The mine owners are equally determined to prevent this from happening.

John Sayles is a truly admirable film-maker. For three decades now he has been making intelligent and eminently watchable movies, turning down Hollywood's money in order to preserve his artistic independence. He often takes a small acting role in his films - and acquits himself more than competently. In "Leanna" he played the predatory college lecturer, and here he is the 'hardshell' baptist preacher. He gives quite a performance.

West Virginia's misty greenness and steep, wooded slopes are evoked beautifully. The shabby rail depot where the shoot-out takes place is a genuine West Virginian location. The feel for both period and place is created with loving sensitivity. Director of Photography Haskell Wexler has done a great job (look out for the terrific train shot). There is a persuasive grittiness and realism about all of the images, and especially the climactic gun battle, that is utterly absorbing. The music which accompanies the action contains authentic vernacular songs, in perfect keeping with what is in essence a true story.

In the first years of the twentieth century, mine workers in West Virginia lived in abject poverty. Subjected to the 'truck' system, they were paid, not in cash, but in company credits. They had no choice but to spend their wages at the company store, where the mine owners dictated the prices. On top of this, each worker was obliged to buy his own tools and to pay for wash-house facilities.

Into the community of Matewan comes a saintly stranger, Joe Kenehan (played by Chris Cooper). Kenehan is a deserter from Levenworth, a conscientious objector who has taken to the creed of socialism with almost religious fervour. Sent by the union as an emissary, Kenehan's task is to win the confidence of the people and to educate them in the ways of organised labour.

If Kenehan is a symbol of enlightened socialism, 'Few Clothes' Johnson (James Earl Jones) represents the true working-class hero. Few Clothes understands mining more deeply than his bosses ever will. Though he is now in his 50's, his fine body remains immensely strong. This good and gentle man does not like violence, but he will fight to protect his people against their natural enemies - the agents of the mine owners.

Sayles' first-class screenplay cleverly exploits the religious imagery which suffuses the language of these simple, God-fearing folk. The film makes the point that the 'getting' of socialism is a form of religious conversion. Kenehan is a wandering missionary, rather like a biblical prophet, preaching the salvation of collective bargaining. He is an alternative to the preachers, bringing Revelation to the miners, "puttin' the spirit into 'em". Little wonder that Bridey Mae Tolliver (Nancy Mette), the would-be seductress, is seen by the locals in terms of the Old Testament story of Joseph and Potiphar.

The tale is narrated by Davey, the boy preacher whose sheer humanity draws him into the workers' fold. In this wilderness west of the Shenandoah Valley, two broad movements have developed within the baptist faith - hardshell and softshell. The hardshell preachers dispense a strict, unyielding brand of christianity which is unsympathetic to the miners' cause - after all, there is the parable of the toilers in the vineyard. Davey is a softshell preacher, a believer in the brotherhood of man who interprets Christ's message as an exhortation to kindness.

And then there are the Italians. The immigrants speak little English, do not integrate and are (initially, at least) indifferent to the nascent union agitation. They are exploited by the mine owners as unwitting strike breakers. It is through the womenfolk that the antipathy between Americans and Italians is overcome. At first, the women are every bit as hostile towards one another as the men, as shown in the clashes between Rosaria and Mrs. Elkins (Maggie Renzi and Jo Henderson, long-time collaborators with Sayles). However, the great dramas of human life - birth, mourning, and the never-ending struggle to feed their families - draw the women together. The workers realise that far more united them than divides them. "I figure we're all in this together." The Italian miners join the strike.

Hired vigilantes have arrived in town, company men with the express intention of breaking the strike. Their ugly presence sparks trouble, and the escalation of tensions begins, leading to gut-wrenching violence. This tension is superbly conveyed in the scene where the night shift of strike-breakers enters the mine.

At one point, semi-wild hillfolk intervene to drive off Hickey and Griggs, company vigilantes who are terrorising defenceless miners. Sayles' point is that the true Americans know instinctively where right and wrong lie in this conflict. They are the natural allies of the miners.

Sid Hatfield, the law officer of Matewan (played by David Strathairn), is a good man in the great tradition of lawmen. He sees his vocation in simple, powerful terms - to protect his people. When the final confrontation comes, the choice that he makes is one of the most stirring events in a film charged with emotion.
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victor775419 August 2004
Matewan ranks in the best of the 80's. John Sayles much overlooked tale based on the true events that occurred in the title town. Sayles recreates the past with pastoral images and glowing light. Chris Cooper's Luddite persona and Christlike attitude captures the heart and is evenly balanced by the antagonist's in the film.

The cast is phenomenal. David Straitharn is the dark rider sheriff with a good heart. The final showdown is powerful and sad.

West Virginia is beautifully captured. Cinematography was the only category the Academy of Arts and Sciences recognized as nominating.

The film captures the desperation and determination of people who had very little and were treated like slaves. The Coal Company tried to break the formation of a Union by infecting it with racism and violence. That was the mindset.

The film is spiritual and lyrical showcasing the beauty and creativity of a much overlooked director.
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Powerful presentation of the struggle for human dignity and equity.
sunsetcliff3 March 2005
This is a powerful film depicting both the conditions under which most mineworkers labored and the social conditions existing in the 1920-1930 era of our American history. It accurately portrays the manner in which powerful industrial interests manipulated the worker's economic dependency using 'script' issued in lieu of lawful and legal tender and controlled the acquisition of basic needs such as shelter, food, and clothing. By "owning" the stores, controlling employment, threatening the physical well-being of its employees, and hiring of thugs to intimidate individuals and their ability to implement any organized mutual assistance, these wealthy and powerful companies sought to (and succeeded in ) maximizing their profits by using the labor of the poor and impotent at almost no cost to the company.

One needs to search intensely to finally reveal the true history of our period of industrialization. It is of great credit to the producer's and director's of such films as "Matewan" that we can see clearly the history and ongoing great struggle between the working class and the wealthy elite to obtain their proper share of "profits."

This is a film where one enters a theater to be "entertained", but leaves having the stirrings of compassion and outrage raised in their hearts. It reminds us that there is a human price paid for economic gain.
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A greatly under-appreciated classic
This 1987 film aims to document real events that concerned a small coal mining community (called Matewan) in West Virginia in 1920. The miners are trying to organize a union, much to the dismay of the company that employs them. All of the acting is great, including, in the starring role, Chris Cooper, (the Kansas City native who was the abusive father from American Beauty and who starred in another fantastic Sayles film from 1996, Lonestar), David Strathairn as the good-natured but stern police chief, and, in his only theatrical movie role ever (here at 14 years old), indie-folk legend Will Oldham, of Palace Music and Bonnie Prince Billie fame. He plays a preacher-in-training in the film, and does such a great job that it seems damn unfortunate for all of us that he didn't continue his acting career--though he would go on to make some great music, and continues to currently. It also features James Earl Jones, aka Darth Vader.

Anyway, the film is very honest, subtle and exquisite. You don't feel, as you do with many films churned out by Hollywood, that things have been altered and embellished for the sake of making it interesting--it's very natural, and it seems very real. You're confidant that Sayles is giving you the truth here, as best he can, through his visual style, restrained, natural dialogue and engaging historic atmosphere.

It's movies like this that renew my faith in period pieces. Important historical films at their best are able to capture a period and bring the audience as close as possible to experiencing the 'feel' of that time--I guess that kinda goes without saying though.
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If All History Lessons Were This Good
the_mad_mckenna18 August 2002
With the Corporate greed scandals going on today, it's still a shock to see what went down in the Coal Mines in the 1920's and the battles for worker's rights vs. Greed. This movie plays out like a Woody Guthrie song, a Steinbeck novel; we have the Vigilante Men and the strings being pulled against the common man, whether he/she is local, an immigrant or a minority. Period details are all taken care of, and there's plenty of great suspense and wonderful performances. It gets a 10 from me - how could you not be moved by this film?
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Great movie about my hometown!
bek-1226 February 1999
If you are from Matewan, you know the shock of having this movie be about your hometown. I can't help but wonder if James Earl Jones was thinking "Why the hell are we making a movie about this place??" I think the population when I lived there (most of my life) was somewhere around 1200. Probably hasn't grown much. I still keep in contact with a few people from there. My dad owned a bar there called the Silver Dollar, and he worked in the mines at one time, as did my mother and grandfather. I've heard stories of how the real Matewan Massacre went, along with Bloody Mingo and all the rest, and from what I've heard from my family, this movie is pretty close to the truth. Matewan has always been a rough town, and even today fights are commonplace in this little one street town. It's pretty desolate, with no real business, no industry, and the coal mines are almost mined out. The nearest decent place is Williamson (WV) or Pikeville, Kentucky, a small college town. I miss home sometimes, but at least I can watch the movie and be reminded of home. One thing about it... it's an entertaining movie. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did, but then again, I'm biased.
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A stark depiction of a dark chapter in history
Knuckle15 April 2006
Matewan tells the tale of just one of the battles fought in the coal mining wars of the late nineteenth, early twentieth century.

Chris Cooper, as Joe Menehan, plays a union organizer intent upon bringing the miners of Matewan out from underneath the heel of the coal mine owners. When intimidation and terror tactics fail to cow the locals, the mine operators and their private security thugs bring in scabs, nominally led by "Few Clothes" Johnson - played by James Earl Jones. When the scabs join the strikers the mine operators resort to all-out warfare against the unionized miners.

David Strathairn, Chris Cooper, James Earl Jones, Mary McDonnell - everyone on the cast delivers a believable, wonderful performance. Everything in this movie makes you feel as if you were really there and depicts this often overlooked event in American history with a stark realism that will leave you thinking about it over and over for a very long time.

Such is the impact of the direction, acting, and writing of this movie that when I saw this movie on video about a week ago, it was still as fresh in my mind as when I saw it last on the big screen on opening day.

10 out of 10. Truly an overlooked classic.
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Starts out slow, but builds up into something great
Idocamstuf14 October 2003
When this film started out, I honestly thought it would end up boring me to death. But after about 20 minutes, I began to start really enjoying it. The whole idea of a town comming together to battle evil is certainly something special. Great performances from a great a cast, especially Chris Cooper, and James Earl Jones. This is an intense and gripping drama that will remind you of "The Grapes Of Wrath". A truly great surprise. 8.5/10.
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This should look really relevant now.
Lee Eisenberg16 January 2006
The recent mining accident not only underscores the dangers of mining, but what happens when the government is aligned with the mining companies against the workers (specifically, Bush is probably the most rabidly anti-labor president in history; at least in the last eighty years). "Matewan" shows these sorts of things in the early 20th century, when miners led by Joe Kenehan (Chris Cooper) went on strike against a mining company in West Virginia. It shows how the company tries to hire blacks and immigrants as scabs, so as to "divide and conquer", but the miners get the scabs to join the union; the mining company then goes into attack mode. All in all, this is a great look at a battle that continues to this day, and it affirms John Sayles as probably the greatest director alive today. As Howard Zinn once noted: "The history of the United States is a history of labor struggles."
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By far the most powerful American movie made by one of the great movie makers.
Jim-4396 July 1999
John Sayles gives us one of the greatest peeks into the American labor struggle and the people who struggled for justice on the job. "Matewan" captures the hopes, fears and passions of working people from a variety of backgrounds. The image of David Strathairn's sheriff confronting the hired company goons (Kevin Tighe and Gordon Clapp) is unforgettable. I suppose I could go on and on but I will just leave it with this thought: "Matewan" is an American film-making masterpiece and Mr. Sayles is it's greatest director.
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A great history lesson!
Gethin Van Haanrath7 July 2009
You might say we have it pretty good today, we don't have to pick up a rifle to form a union. This movie is based on the Battle of Matewan that took place in Matewan, West Virginia in 1920.

The conditions these workers faced were brutal. Miners had to pay for all their own equipment, their housing was owned by the mining company and they also paid for it, workers were also paid in credits which they could only use at the mining company store. Workers who went strike were subsequently evicted from their homes.

This movie is great. It's a page from history which should be told much more often. James Earl Jones is terrific as a black miner who is signed up as a scab but he's actually a union sympathizer who encourages the black scabs to strike with the West Virginia workers.

Chris Cooper is also great as a union organizer. I think he's a highly underrated actor. He was very good in American Beauty as the hick next door neighbor and he's great in Matewan as well. Proof, I believe that he can really take on any role.

Bob Gunton is also a great actor. This movie was made long before he was playing every two bit villain of the week. I think that was due to his role as the warden in The Shawshank Redemption where he just let it all out.

I liked one scene in particular early in the film where the union men on strike try to weed out Cooper by finding out how much he knows about union history. Where was Joe Hill buried? In which eye was Big Bill Haywood blind in? Cooper also quips, "I was a Wobbly, back when that meant something" But he does support the notion of One Big Union. The IWW will rise again!
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A memorable drama
John Seal8 December 1999
Matewan is a somewhat over-earnest depiction of a coal strike in 1920s West Virginia that is carried by some outstanding acting and fine cinematography. Chris Cooper made his acting debut here, and he's since proven in American Beauty and October Sky that he was no flash in the pan. Also on hand is a young Will Oldham of alterna-country group The Palace Brothers, the always reliable David Strathairn as the town sheriff, and Kevin Tighe--he of TV's 'Emergency'!--as a particularly loathsome company goon. Matewan makes its point bluntly and would be an outstanding introduction of labour history for teenagers---if they're willing to pay attention.
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Unsung Classic
Tommy-832 September 1999
Matewan is Chris Cooper's first of two films with a West Virgina coal mining town as the backdrop. Although in Matewan he plays a heroic union leader, as in October Sky he plays a skeptical father. Cooper is only one of the factors that makes this 1987 film a masterpiece. It's incredible cinematography by Haskell Wexler compliments director John Sayles' great directing job. Look for Sayles acting as a preacher in the film.
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Sayles' Strikes
tedg14 August 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

I consider Sayles a minor master, but not for this. `Limbo' and `Lone Star' are much more complex films in their structure. They reference memory, the angst of vision, and emptiness of creation. They are ambitious and every bit as lovely as this.

Here, I think Sayles decided he would attempt something simple and master it utterly, using `How Green Was My Valley' as a template. As there, so here. The situation is two dimensional with the bad guys and the salt-of-the-earth innocents. The development of the story is entirely linear with various enobling events. As there, so here with the director finding the most artistic Hollywood cinematographer in Wexler (as did John Ford with Arthur Miller). In both cases, the lighting is ethereal, placing these artificially gritty folks in a sort of Disneyland coal town.

It is a remarkably simple morality play, but Sayles does indeed envelop it entirely. He has a special skill in visual narrative continuity. The motion of the dialog, the movement of the actors and the movement of the camera eye all continue from one set of scenes to another as visual phrases. I know no one else who does this so well with these three factors.

As an aside, the situation of West Virginia is odd. It is the Saudi Arabia of coal, and as with Arabia, West Virginia should have elevated a largely illiterate populace to grand wealth and the foibles that come with it. Instead, essentially the rest of the country has conspired to take for ourselves without giving back, like we grandly subsidize Alaska. Here, Sayles mines this sad history for our comfortable, warm moralizing. Is it much different?

Ted's evaluation: 3 of 4 -- Worth Watching.
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An American Classic
mrcaw13 May 2004
John Sayles, a true American original and one this country's best directors created this masterpiece of the late 80s. Beautifully photographed in shades of brown and sepias, this movie tells a uniquely American tale of coal miners fighting for their rights in rural West Virginia in the early part of the 20th century. With early performances by Mary McDonnell and Chris Cooper as well as another fine portrayal by the legendary James Earl Jones. This film easily warrants anyone's top ten list.
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Very Accurate
Male_Outlaw_For_God3815 November 2002
Orginally born and raised in West Virginia in the Logan County area my parents knew of the coal mining thugs and credit this film as being 100% an accurate protrayel of the harsh times of the 20's, My Faviorite part of the film was the moment Sid Hatifield expresses how he feels about Mr Felts ( I would'nt pee on him if his heart was on fire)but he deputizes the men to go home and get there Gun's ( what a great guy) he did'nt ask them if it was registered ( I am anti gun-control) and pro 2d Ammendment. Mr Sayles thanks for your work in bringing this film home. God bless
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Even if you know the outcome the suspense will keep you on the edge of your seat.
DJRicky22 March 2000
Having grown up in the southern coalfields of West Virginia I heard the stories of the way things were from many people who lived during those years. Many of the scenes in this movie are very accurate: the Baldwin-Felts agents were ruthless in carrying out the mine owners orders and yes that was a machine gun gaurding the mines in the movie, the working conditions for the miners during those years were terrible as the company literally owned the miners and everything around them, evictions were common, tent camps were everywhere. This film is as close as you will come to the real way things were during the 'Mine Wars.'

Of course being somewhat prejudice for this film I'm glad to see all ov the positive reviews from people throughout the world. This film really depicts life in southern West Virginia during those years with all of its elements, including the 'hill people' towards the end of the movie. Mrs. Elkins was right when she said that them people were dangerous. A wonderful film that keeps you in suspense right up until the end even if you already know the outcome.

This film was just part of the whole picture dealing with the 'Mine Wars.' To learn more about the 'Mine Wars' you might want to find the film/documentary called, "Even the Heavens are Weeping" which depicts another segment of labor unrest in West Virginia's Coalfileds on a much larger scale.
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I use it in my US History classes
Gerald O'Connor26 November 2002
Even with the fictionalized elements, there's not a better film about a historical event than Matewan. I've read many of the comments here, and I concur with those who find this a minor masterpiece. Not only does it tell a fascinating post-WWI story, but my students learn about the labor movement, the problems confronting immigrants, and race relations all in one package. I usually set it up with some information about the time period and location, the unique backstory about the Hatfields and McCoys, and the music--don't forget the period music! BTW, if you are inclined to purchase the film on DVD, whatever you do DO NOT BUY THE ARTISAN PICTURES version... it's cheap, not widescreen, with terrible sound and picture quality. Get the version distributed by SEVILLE PICTURES out of Canada. They did a fine job with the DVD... a gorgeous picture in 16 X 9 widescreen with Dolby Digital 2.0. Not a lot of bells and whistles, but I don't really care about that nonsense. It's the film itself that makes the DVD, and this film is one of the best.
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Beautifully made, overlooked masterpiece
krudd2 July 2001
Thank goodness for Bravo TV. Never would have heard of, or seen, this movie without it. Chris Cooper is excellent, as usual, as is David Straithairn as the Sheriff trying to hold a town together while fighting the Company. Certainly nothing I ever heard about in History class, but what a beautifully made, realistically brutal view of the coal miners life, both in the mine and out.
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Brilliant, beautiful, unique.
Barry Kruse1 March 2001
I am astonished that this film garnered so few accolades. I wish I would have seen this beautiful piece in the theater.

Like "Lone Star", it is a masterful, touching, authentic-looking story that moves at a slow, deliberate pace. It shows us a set of characters and characterizations that challenge us, defy stereotyping, and give us a great insight into a period of history and culture that we likely know nothing about. I was moved, and entirely swept up by this piece, and I deeply recommend it (as I do Lone Star) for something that will cause you to question your own opinions about unionization now and in history. Many actors in the film step well out of their typically expected roles. The cast is generally masterful.

My sole criticism for this film is that Will Oldham looks more Mormon than Applachian. I'm not sure how to describe this, but I lived in Utah for a year, and recognize it anywhere. It's not a bad thing, but it is distinctive - consider the very toothy smile of the Osmond family, and the fact that "Oldham" is a fairly common Mormon name, and there you have it. For this reason, I felt the role was mis-cast as maybe being too obvious. His performance is frequently overacted, I feel.

Chris Cooper is arguably the finest actor in American Cinema, and as truly commonly American as they come. I'd love to see him paired with Denzel Washington or Gene Hackman on something.
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One of the great narratives of the 80's
chaos-rampant28 January 2011
After a streak of Godard films that left me a little exhausted, I was looking for a big narrative to immerse myself in, a film where artifice does not jump to our attention but is transparent and the world of the film believable. I immediately remembered about John Sayles and his nouvellas of cinema. With Lone Star I bemoaned the lack of a visual imagination, but coming to a Sayles film for a narrative like I did with Matewan, I leave completely satisfied. The man excels in telling us stories with scope and values of importance.

What a lovely world he creates here, among the derelict shacks and cabins of the Pennsylvania foothills of Matewan a moral struggle is fought, flawed characters with faces blackened by coaldust fumble with great ideals and big hopes for a better future, and the one thing that stands between them and justice is their own prejudice. I like how the film suggests that for the collective to be reformed the individual must be reformed first, that we need to look inwards first before we make a stand. The stand in the film is heroic but also desperate, a bit of a lawless old West on the way to emancipation. John Sayles is a leftist and this comes across loud and clear in Matewan, but unlike a Godard film like Week End, Sayles doesn't call for blood, he calls for social justice.

The narrative here sprawls in and out of log cabins where sullen faces plot strikes and discuss ideals, in and out of makeshift tents and muddy town streets where coalminers live and die and sing, now a fiddle or harmonica is calling out from the dark the sad tune of a life of suffering, and the finale is sealed with a shootout filled with tragedy and hope. Sayles' camera doesn't intrude in any of this, rather it's invited in and hankers down out of way to quietly listen or conspire.

Matewan makes a great doublebill with Martin Ritt's The Molly Maguires, another forlorn drama of the oppressed that speaks of moral devastation in the Pennsylvania coal fields, but more, it stands by itself as one of the great American narratives of the 80's.
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Great movie, fits perfectly in a US History course
agruebele28 February 2010
This was a great movie, and quite fun to watch. At times it was emotional, but accurately portrayed some of the struggles of the early 1900's. Sidhatfield had one of my favorite quotes of all time: "I've met Mr. Felts. I wouldn't pee on him if his heart was on fire." You won't be sorry if you watch this. It is one of the best movies of the 80's and probably more than that. The director did a terrific job, as did the script writer. Enjoy!

My review for the teachers of US History courses: The film Matewan exemplifies the dynamics between the corporate capitalist class of super rich company owners, and the lower class of workers. Matewan quite accurately shows all the different types of characters and groups that played in such conflicts during the late 19th century to early 20th. Such conflicts erupted due to the different (actually, the opposite) interests of the corporate capitalists and the lower classes. While the movie is slightly biased in favor of the mistreated strikers (as is natural), it portrays an accurate picture of the events that occurred in Matewan as well as other mining towns in the early 1900's of West Virginia. The movie does a great job at depicting the suffering and courage on the part of the workers, as well as the brutality of the Baldwin-Felts Pinkertons, and the mine owners.
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