Mine 9 (2019)

In an Appalachian coal mine, an explosion due to methane traps 9 miners 2 miles underground. As the efforts to save them take time, they quickly risk running out of oxygen.

Writer/director Eddie Mensore creates a very intimate view on coal mining work and its inherent risks, showing the miners has humans with fears, hopes, and the reasons why they work in the mines, which in some cases is the lack of other options. Here the miners are not just 9 potential victims of the explosion and its repercussions, but they are 9 men trying their best to make a living and survive. The film is done on a smaller scale than what Hollywood would do with something like this, keeping things lower budget and located mostly in the mine and in small enclosed spaces. The characters creates in this situation and their reactions feel human and natural, giving the film an edge that starts a connection with the viewer, whether or not they have any connection with the mining world. The direction takes the small spaces and makes the most out of them, giving the characters the spaces they need to evolve. The writing and direction give the characters the basis they need to become fully fleshed by the carefully chosen cast.

The cast here is led by Terry Serpico as Zeke, the de facto leader of the miners who is over the risks taken but won’t let him men down and thus ends up in the mine at the time of the explosion. His performance here is one of strength whether obvious or quiet. He gives nuances that are perfect for the part. Supporting him and bring their own dose of realism through their performances are Clint James as John, Mark Ashworth as Kenny, Kevin Sizemore as Daniel, and a few others. The main characters are really the 9 miners stuck in the mine after the explosion and all the actors involved here do very good work with their parts, their interactions, and their limitations in terms of setting. Acting through dust, smoke, oxygen masks, they all manage to get the fear and despair of being trapped in a mine without knowing if they will ever get out alive.

The cinematography by Matthew Boyd is something that becomes of major importance once the cast is in the mine as the spaces are cramped, the quantity of people and equipment make it even more so, and there is a challenge with lighting being from limited source. Boyd makes it all look effortless with great framing and attention to details. The light here is used as almost a character in the scenes, joining the men and leaving them when needed, showing that lighting can make or break a film and how it’s used here is how it should be for a situation meant to be poignant and stressful. The film ends up looking great with a good view on the story and the action, giving the character the room to be, to evolve, and to connect with the viewers.

Mine 9 is an effort in creating tension in a small space with a limited number of characters who end up feeling a bit cramped due to the space limitations, thus creating further tension. The film works as a character piece, a message piece, and a tension filled film. It’s one of those that should be viewed on as large a screen as possible and in the dark to get its full effect once the miners end up caught in the mine post explosion. This set up will ensure that the viewer can fully connect with the characters and perhaps feel more in tune with the situation.