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Movie Details

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Directed By
John Sayles

Written By:
John Sayles

John Sayles, Chris Cooper, James Earl Jones, Mary McDonnell, William Oldham, Kevin Tighe, David Strathairn, Jace Alexander, Gordon Clapp, Joe Grifasi, Bob Gunton, Jo Henderson, Ken Jenkins, Nancy Mette, Josh Mostel, Maggie Renzi, Frank Hoyt Taylor, Mason Daring, Jason Jenkins, Michael B. Preston

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Matewan (1987)
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Movie Review by Zara
November 14th, 2007

I like John Sayles. One of the lesser recognized directors (in as much as the average movie goer wouldn't think "Hey! Have you seen the new John Sayles?"), Sayles can tell an involving story that might come off as flat out boring in less talented hands. He chooses to hit material where there has been some infraction in human rights violated and tends to let the story then speak for itself. Very rarely do you find someone who doesn't want to put their stamp of support or condemnation upon a subject. Sayles manages to do just that with great aplomb.

MATEWAN is the story of a group of coal miners during the 1920's and their attempts to unionize in a small town. Chris Cooper, excellent as always, is a union leader trying to help out the men and keep them from resorting to vigilante justice. Made during the late '80's, this movie has a look which is much older than its years. The film transfer is grainy, the sound is at times screeching and at other times muffled. All of it lends to conveying the heart of the story. Anything made in more recent years with a shinier, cleaner transfer would have ultimately hurt the telling.

When watching a film like this, I get mad. I get mad for the people who are being abused. I get mad that we couldn't figure out a way to solve our differences without incurring a violent end. I get mad that in many quiet ways, much of what went on then is going on now within the retail business. Sayles never takes that side where you feel as if he wants you to be mad. He lays it out and allows you to come to your own conclusion. The one that I came to just so happened to feature a heavy dose of indignation. Whether he likes it or not, Sayles makes a very convincing argument for both unionization and justice through the barrel of a gun. In any case, a very important point gets made.

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