This newest movie by writer and director John Sayles showcases his particular talent for painting rich character portraits, perfect in almost every detail. But in this story of a 1920 showdown between striking coal miners and the Stone Mountain Coal Company in Matewan, W.Va., Sayles attempts a more epic topic than previously tackled.
The task ultimately proves too much despite the fine cast of characters, including those played by Chris Cooper as the saint-like union organizer, James Earl Jones as the miner brought in with a group of black and Italian scabs, and Will Oldham, as a young boy at the start of a grueling life as a coal miner. Nevertheless, 'Matewan' is an earnest and sympathetic look at both the universal tragedy of the exploitation of workers and the specific tragedy of the struggle of the Matewan townspeople to find some dignity in a harsh existence. Rated PG-13. THE FOURTH PROTOCOL -- 'The Fourth Protocol' not only does what a good spy movie should do, twist and turn through treachery and deceit to the inevitable surprising conclusion, it also does what any good movie should do, entertain by telling a good story well. Directed by John Mackenzie and based on the Frederick Forsyth book of the same name, 'The Fourth Protocol' pits a British intelligence agent, played masterfully by Michael Caine, against a robot-like KGB agent, played by Pierce Brosnan, in a plot to plant an atomic bomb on an American nuclear airbase in England. 'The Fourth Protocol' is a satisfying mesh of political drama and action-adventure. Rated R.