There's an immediacy that is absolutely breathtaking that unfolds in Mine 9, a film written and directed by Eddie Mensore that opened up recently in L.A. and is headed later this month to New York City where it will screen at The Quad beginning June 28th.
While we've seen more than a few films centered around mining accidents over the years, few have truly possessed the raw terror and harrowing nature of a true mining disaster like Mine 9, a modestly budgeted indie project that uses its limits to its advantage and absolutely makes viewers feel like we've become immersed in the unfolding tragedy.
While I fancied myself a fan of Patricia Riggen's The 33, based upon a true story, this fictionalized tale is absolutely mesmerizing and deserves to find a wider audience.
Mine 9 takes place in West Virginia's Appalachian country, not so affectionately known as The Devil's Playground. Headed by Zeke, a local section leader and longtime veteran of mining, a close-knit group of nine men, all friends and family, a group of nine men find themselves working in an increasingly troubled where safety concerns often come in second, even third, to corporate interests and the needs of the men to make a decent wage in an economically depressed area.
Shutting down a mine, even for a day, costs everyone.
So, they keep working.
As you might've guessed by now, Mine 9 is the story of the struggle for survive after a methane explosion decimates the mine and leaves the men with a mere one hour of oxygen before their fates will largely be decided.
It's that immediacy, a story practically rolling out in real time, that makes Mine 9 one of the most involving and gripping films about a mining disaster to be made yet. Mensore has crafted a work of wonder here, a film that seemingly benefits from its limitations and unfolds with such incredible suspense that you become involved in these mens' experiences even as you barely know who they are beyond their basic character traits.
Zeke, strongly portrayed by Terry Serpico, is the most vividly portrayed and Serpico is definitely up to the task of playing a morally conflicted leader who cares about the men who work for him and who tries to balance that compassion with his professional role as a leader and, as well, as a godparent to newbie Ryan (Drew Starkey). Mark Ashworth, Kevin Sizemore, and Clint James are also terrific in fronting a strong ensemble cast.
While the performances in Mine 9 are strong across the board, it's truly the film's remarkable production team that really makes this film soar. Matthew Boyd's lensing is sparse, shadowy, and absolutely stellar here while an original score by Mauricio Yazigi truly amps up the film's heightened suspense and emotions. Tim Barrett's production design is impeccable and the film's editing team of Mensore, Joseph Gutowski, and Anaitte Vaccaro is really top notch in building suspense yet infusing humanity.
Mine 9 is one of those films that grabs you early on and never lets you go. It's filled with deep human emotions and a cultural authenticity that adds tremendous depth and meaning to everything that unfolds throughout its relatively slight 83-minute running time. While you may have seen other films centered around mining disasters, you've most likely not seen one as painstakingly created and gripping as Mine 9.
For more information on Mine 9, visit the film's website linked to in the credits.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic