John Sayles' suburb period drama is set in the '20s era West Virginia coal mining community of Matewan where union organizer Joe Kenehan (Chris Cooper) arrives with a group of black miners being brought in by the Stone Mountain Coal Company to break striking Italian miners. Sayles' meticulous script manifests the stark social influences of government, corporation, religion, race, and personal struggles pervading the Appalachian region at the time. James Earl Jones gives a powerful performance as a Black miner called "Few Clothes," and David Strathairn creates a distinctly un-stereotypical sheriff in the guise of Sid Hatfield. Layered with a beautiful musical score by Mason Daring, it's Chris Cooper's union leader that captures the imagination in an unforgettable picture of essential American history. Cinematographer Haskell Wexler contributes greatly to the look and feel of a truly special cinematic achievement.
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