It’s hard making a movie out of a book. Ardent Harry Potter fans know what should be happening on screen although they will occasionally, begrudgingly, suspend disbelief and allow a bit of artistic licence. It’s even harder making a movie out of a news event, a human tragedy, because we have seen it played out in real life on our TV screens. In some cases like the Stewart Driver saga at Thredbo it went on for a week.
And then there was Beaconsfield. Three miners entombed in a Tasmanian gold mine a kilometre underground after a seismic jolt brought down tonnes of rocks upon them.
Rescuers found the body of Larry Knight after three days. Then they started blasting to get to the bodies of Todd Russell and Brant Webb. A renegade miner, believing like their families, they could still be alive, crawled in and after five days the miraculous news came out: They were alive.
Getting them out was going to take more than another week. And above the ground we hung on their fate hour after hour, day after day. The threat of more rock falls ever-present. Would their rescuers eventually kill them?
It’s a helluva story with a happy ending for two of the Beaconsfield miners and the film of that saga is a helluva movie. I saw Beaconsfield last night in the company of Todd Russell and Brant Webb. They were seeing it in its entirety for the first time and it was a massive night for them and their wives.
They obviously had a big input into the dialogue of two disparate and desperate men forced together in a tiny death cell, a rocky would-be grave, in the bowels of the earth. Their, at times, spiky relationship is well captured by Lachy Hulme playing Russell and Shane Jacobson playing Webb. Hulme, who will soon play Kerry Packer has developed into a chameleon of an actor. He IS Todd Russell.
He even put on 25 kilograms for the part of a rootin’ tootin’ man mountain. In Jacobson you only see an occasional flash of Kenny. And remember, these men spend virtually all the movie in close-up crammed into a rock-filled wire mesh cage no bigger than a dog kennel.
Steve Vizard does a very good, nuanced, cameo as the 60 Minutes legend Richard Carleton who died of a heart attack while covering the story.
The death of Larry Knight, the sometimes forgotten man in all this, is well-handled and the film is tightly and cleverly directed, without shmaltz, by young director Glendyn Ivin. The film will be screen on the Nine Network next month.
When tragedy struck on Anzac Day 2006 the miners were looking for gold. In Beaconsfield the movie – they have found it.