It is with a great dose of irony that the TV movie depicting the mine collapse at Beaconsfield manages to be so very much a surface affair. Despite gorgeous cinematography and solid performances, the TV movie fails to tap into the rich source material on hand. The result is an unsatisfying and lacklustre TV movie event.

The story of Beaconsfield, based on the true story, has a mine collapse kill a Tasmanian miner and trap two of his colleagues under 14.5 metres of rock. Australians everywhere were captivated by the rescue effort which took 14 nights to safely deliver the men to the surface and their families. The media reporting on the story became almost as much a part of the story themselves. Sunrise host David Koch is well-remembered for a media stunt that had him jump in the back of a vehicle transporting the men away from the mine site, current affairs host Naomi Robson was criticised for her ‘princess’ behaviour while reporting from the site, and renowned journalist Richard Carleton suffering a fatal heart attack while attending a press conference at the mine.

From the outset, the Beaconsfield movie is about two miners trapped under rubble and the attempt to rescue them. And that is what the movie offers. There is no further exploration of the situation or themes presented beyond that. It feels generic and rushed as the TV movie is seemingly spat out of the Tragedy-TV-Movie-O-Matic-2200, with visuals of distraught family members at home in their kitchens that have much of the film looking like a really emotional Nescafe commercial. The movie is rarely artful and is more than willing to tap into every cliche and trope of the genre. “Beaconsfield” even offers the hackneyed scene in which a loved one is told about a tragedy as the camera keeps enough distance for the dialogue not to be heard as said loved one breaks into tears. Awful stuff.

What is galling about the approach taken to the film is that there is so much potential for genuine drama to be had from this story. With the miners trapped beneath the rocks in the first 15 minutes of the film, there is very little time for the audience to get to know who the men are or who much at all about their families. While we may be watching two men suffering the trauma of being trapped in such inhospitable conditions, a distance is kept at all times from simply not being given much of a chance to get to know these men in any real meaningful kind of way. The film ends with the two men being walked out of the mine, followed by title cards advising of their futures. I’d have appreciated the chance to actually see these men coping with the after-affects of the disaster. How did the trauma impact their day to day lives following the event, and what was the experience like of having the entire world so focussed on you over the days that followed their release? Surely that alone has to change a person.

The role of the media in this telemovie is also very curious. While Channel 9 reporter Richard Carleton is given significant airtime in the movie, it almost seems irrelevant. Unless the movie is to offer a look at the media circus that built up over the 14 days, there is very little point in covering his story. While yes, it was sad that Carleton passed away while reporting on the story, his story specifically has no impact or relationship to the rest of the events of the film.

Lachy Hume (Todd Russell) and Steve Vizard (Richard Carleton) are great in the film. Vizard, particularly, seems to devour the screen with every scene that he’s in. The generally odious Shane Jacobson is fine as Brant Webb, but there is a feeling that he is bringing too much baggage with him to the role for the casting to work that well.

There are moments in the film that play rather well (one great scene, in particular, offers a really powerful subtlety as the mining team attempting to rescue their colleagues watch their boss explore the cave ahead of them as he looks for dead bodies), but the overall experience of the film is rather flat. Beaconsfield is no worse than most TV movies of this nature, but Nine have really upped their game in recent years with stronger material like the Underbelly series, that it was hoped they may offer a more artful approach to this. Beaconsfield deserved to be better.

Beaconsfield airs on Channel 9, Sunday April 22 at 8:30pm.

About The Author

Dan Barrett watches a lot of TV. A lot. Yet, he still finds time to squeeze in time for Cheers and Mary Tyler Moore Show repeats. In a past life he played some tunes under the name DJ Bea Arthur.

7 Responses

  1. Neil

    Thought the Beaconsfield telemovie was well acted* and had good set design. The script told the story in a straightforward, non-hysterical manner and portrayed all involved in dignified manner. It was boring.

    *Apart from the Daddo brother who, even in the “what if we kill them?” kitchen scene which was obviously meant to be an emotional one, couldn’t bring anything to the role. A walking, talking blank.

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  2. Chocks

    Dan Barrett’s review of the TV movie “Beaconsfield” is a load of pretentious crap! It’s about time screenwriters got back to telling a good story and this is exactly what was done in this movie. The actors were well cast and entirely believable with Shane Jacobson proving what a talented and diverse actor he is. Baggage? Odious? Again, pretentious crap Dan! This is a story of decent basic Aussie working men caught up in a dangerous and fearful situation, having to survive as best they can, as do their families above ground. Thank goodness the movie did not indulge in the sort of hysterical drama and ear shattering soundtrack that we’ve come to hate in the Underbelly series (perhaps not the original one, just all the subsequent series), but stayed with the realism of the lives of the two men, their work colleagues who battled to save them, and their families struggling to keep going with the ordinary things of life whilst trying to keep their spirits up. The use of real footage interwoven with the film added to the feeling of being there, being part of the story. I was deeply impressed that this film was kept simple enough for the audience to follow each event as it happened without being left to wonder what was going on – unlike “Snowtown” which left the audience shaking their heads asking “what was that all about?” “Beaconsfield” is a well crafted film in every way!

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  3. NameTony

    Another who’s who of Australian Tv. Daddo was a Joke. Vizard was a weird choice.And that Kenny Bloke enough said.Would have been better of as an actual Movie with unknowns, with more suspense, and less Copmmercials and Pop ups of the Hoff,what a joke.

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  4. Andrea

    I wonder if Dan Barret did his research on this one? If he had, he would know that Russell and Web were behind production of this Aussie gem. It was never going to please him because its purpose for these miners was to ‘explain unanswered questions’ about their experience and ‘draw a line under’ the Beaconsfield accident. The inclusion of Richard Carlton was to emphasise the mining company’s role in the disaster, I thought Dan would have worked that one out. A veritable who’s who of the Aussie acting world and one that grips the audience. I agree with him that more fleshing out of the characters before the accident would have been helpful, but overall I was impressed.

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    • Dan Barrett

      The “purpose for these miners was to ‘explain unanswered questions’ about their experience and ‘draw a line under’ the Beaconsfield accident” is completely irrelevant in regards to whether this was a good TV movie or not. Every TV show or movie has motivation and intent behind it. My problem with this film can be attributed largely to the fact that it just had nothing more to say about the incident than that two guys were trapped in a mine.

      And if you really think the Richard Carlton storyline did much to “emphasise the mining company’s role in the disaster”, I really think you’re reaching a bit. That was barely touched upon.

      A veritable who’s who of the Australian acting world? I didn’t realise we were in such short supply.

      Reply
  5. Pat Ball

    As the Underground Manager and Rescue Co-ordinator of the Beaconsfield Mine in 2006 and having had a big hand in the script, I am probably a bit biased. I thought it told the story well from both sides of the fence and was rivetting. Some people are just negative i suppose, never creating but good at destroying.

    Pat

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