(1978, US, 120 min) Dir Arthur Penn. Cast John Travolta, Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms.
Appalachian set eco-thriller based on mountaintop removal mining and the opposition thereof. Frank (Bridges) and Joe (Travolta) are buddies that went their own ways after high school – Frank to University and Joe to work. It’s been a few years but Frank’s back in town on unknown business. He and Joe go out for a few drinks to catch up on old times. Now Joe hasn’t told Frank but he’s working with the crew that are going to blow the top off Eagle Rock Mountain to mine it for coal but that’s okay – Frank hasn’t told Joe that he’s there to monkeywrench the operation. Of course we know what’s going on and we know at some point that the two of them are sure to collide. In the meantime the film winds itself ever tighter with the mechanics of the mountaintop removal as nail-biting as Frank’s nocturnal recces and basement bomb building. A fine example of that Seventies brand of gritty thriller, like a French Connection in the wild with plenty of time to lay out its characters along with the action. Produced after the megaflop of The Missouri Breaks, this taut, economical thriller didn’t do much better despite also having a stellar cast but it’s reputation has improved with age.