Eddie Mensore’s environmental thriller Mine 9 is a succinct depiction of trapped coal miners in Appalachia. Coming at a time when the preservation of the coal mining industry is improbably and invariably debated, thanks to a political climate incapable of addressing an alternative to fossil fuels, Mine 9 satisfyingly addresses worker’s safety, while interrogating large corporations who allow fatal accidents like this to happen.
Despite the film’s timeliness, Mine 9 only gives so much of its 80-minute screen time to expand on the workers trapped under the earth, spending much of its running length representing the suffocating, claustrophobic horror. Writer/director Mensore excels at creating tension in the tight, necessarily poorly-lit spaces. Aided by a cast of verisimilarly frightened performances, Mine 9 masterfully and formally captures the dread of being trapped in a coal mine.
However, the film’s brevity and appropriately darkly-lit cinematography hinders our ability to identify with any one character, and the film gives little weight to the characters beyond singular personalities or traumas (one character is a recovering alcoholic, for example).
Even with one-dimensional characters, Mine 9 is a gripping and politically conscious (even if subtly) thriller.
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Mark Barber: @WorstCinephile