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Film Reviews Mine 9 is a claustrophobic, poignant tale of survival

In Mine 9, Appalachian miners struggle to survive after a methane explosion leaves them with one hour of oxygen.

Emphatic Films

  • Mine 9
  • Directed by Eddie Mensore
  • Written by Eddie Mensore
  • Starring Terry Serpico, Mark Ashworth, Kevin Sizemore, Clint James, Drew Starkey and Erin Elizabeth Burns
  • Classification PG
  • 83 minutes

rating

″Keep breathing," says one half-buried coal miner to another in the suffocative disaster film Mine 9. “Just breathe what you got.”

The film, from Eddie Mensore, is about desperation and survival. On one level, the survival of miners trapped by a cave-in; on an allegorical level, the survival of a gasping coal industry and a dying Appalachian way of life.

Mine 9 features a close-knit group of veteran undergrounders – some related to each other – braving methane gas and coffin-like confines to provide for their families. Modest of budget, the film is not stocked with soot-faced Kurt Russells or Sam Elliotts. But if this isn’t a Deepwater Horizon blockbuster, the premise – workers jeopardized by exploitative, willfully unsafe conditions – is the same.

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There’s also a horror-film aesthetic at work, amplified by the realness of the situation. Claustrophobic audience members will grip their arm rests tighter than most. One character questions the worth of wearing a crucifix pendant. As one would, working in what looks to be a hell on earth.

Eddie Mensore has not made a masterpiece of the genre, but there’s a poignancy to his gritty calamity tale that makes Mine 9 worth watching.

Mine 9 opens Aug. 16.

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