The events depicted in John Sayles’ film Matewan are true-to-life events and sides in the battle we see in films all the time, Workers v Management. The workers here are coal miners and historically the management in the coal mining companies have been viciously anti-union, but that is what the miners in Matewan want to do, unionize.
John Sayles is an American Independent filmmaker so it’s of no surprise he would choose such a topic a tackle and I feel he did a masterful job here of telling the story or watching the movie online. Sayles is not flashy, he takes the time to show you the characters and show you the terrain. In this film he got another independent to help him get the film done, cinematographer Haskell Wexler, and Wexler’s images, and the true West Virginia locales were the perfect complement to Sayles’ vision of the story. The performers in the movie were great complements as well; Chris Cooper, Mary McDonnell (in her film debut), Bob Gunton, David Strathairn, Kevin Tighe, Gordon Clapp and James Earl Jones, with many more great supporting actors. Sayles allowed the tension to build, then relieve, then build again until the conclusion which just cracks into action with a small motion. He gave us small scenes with great impact, and we could feel what the characters felt, Wexler’s camera was never intrusive, but was there as a part in the proceedings.
The tone was quiet for the most part, but great use was made of traditional union songs, and simple play alongs as the men got to each other; an Italian plays his mandolin, then is joined by a local with a fiddle and another with a guitar, and somewhere were a Negro worker playing the harmonica in time with the others. Those scenes show the heart of the union movement and how to free download movie, about building a community and every one working together toward a common goal, something which goes against the corporate mentality of pitting one man against every other. With all the pieces added together, Sayles’ film remains one of the hidden gems of American cinema, lost behind the glitz and pyrotechnics of Hollywood, covered in the soot of a hard day’s work to bring an honest story to the screen.