In 1973 Harlan County was the scene of a bitter and violent Kentucky miners strike. Brookside Mines employed most of the population of Harlan County in appalling conditions for little pay. After two deaths due to lax safety measures a strike is called at the mine which rapidly descends into violence and chaos.
A good story let down by clichéd direction.
- Harlan County War review by Shatner's Bassoon
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Set in Kentucky in 1973, 'Harlan County War' tells the true story of the Brookside coal miners strike against the Duke Power Company's refusal to agree to a union contract. After a mine roof caves in killing two miners, the company cleans up the mess hastily before safety inspectors arrive see what happened, and the miners go on strike in protest. When the company management sack the striking miners and take legal action in the form of a trespassing injunction to stop them from picketing on company property their wives occupy the picket line in order to bypass the law. As the strike goes on, and with no end in sight, the build up of frustration and anger of both parties leads to more violent confrontations. A major aspect of the film deals with relationships; how in a small community an industrial strike can shatter long standing relationships and friendships, and how those who in the past have been on bad terms can come together for a common cause. The film also touches on the complications that the community will face when the strike is inevitably over, knowing the inhabitants of Harlan county will have to put aside past grievances in order to continue working and living together amicably. The only thing that lets the film down is some really clichéd direction. It tries too hard to push emotional buttons, both with its representation of the locals as noble hillbillies who live in homes without running water or electricity, and the empowered miners wives who fight the cause while their husbands casually sit around drinking beer. That aside, it's an appealing story with an impressive cast who give decent performances, and as a made for TV film it's pretty watchable.