Lachy Hulme is Todd Russell, Shane Jacobsen is Brant Webb

On the evening of 25 April 2006, a rock fall in the Beaconsfield Gold Mine in northern Tasmania trapped two miners and killed a third. 14 days later the miners were freed and walked out of the lift to their waiting families and the world’s attention. It made Todd Russell and Brant Webb household names, and Larry Knight remembered as the miner who died in the accident.

At the time, the Australian media swarmed into town to cover what initially looked to be a recovery mission but five days into the process two miners heard Todd & Brant singing under the rubble and the process quickly turned into a rescue mission. The hope of a nation went into the mine with the rescuers every day following as they worked to free the pair. During the latter part of the rescue 60 Minutes reporter Richard Carleton suffered a heart attack immediately after a press conference and was rushed to Launceston General Hospital but was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

Then Channel 9 boss Eddie McGuire flew down to Beaconsfield to strike a exclusive media deal with the freed miners that included interviews, a celebratory concert as a part of the AFL Footy Show and a TV special that aired nearly a month after the collapse The Great Escape.

It’s reasonable then that the network that won the rights to tell the stories straight afterwards should provide the dramatised version of events in the upcoming telemovie Beaconsfield. Southern Star have put together an amazing production with a stellar core cast and eerily realistic sets adding to the drama of the rescue. Lachy Hulme (Russell) and Shane Jacobsen (Webb) are note-perfect as the two trapped miners; from the 25 minute mark when the mine collapses around them to when they are rescued over two hours later they run the gamut of emotions the miners would have experienced and performed in the tightest of spaces. It’s harrowing to think that the actual miners had less room than Hulme & Jacobsen had as a set, and lived with the constant threat of their small cave collapsing at any second.

Steve Vizard is Richard Carleton

The wives – played by Michala Banas (Carolyn Russell) and Sacha Horler (Racheal Webb) – are sensitively portrayed as women who never gave up hope that their men would be returned to them while providing a positive and loving environment for their kids who were all worried for their dads. Banas is a joy as Russell and Horler continues to amaze as Webb, further reinforcing her chameleonic status as one of Australia’s best character actors.

Cameron Daddo offers a strong if at times baffling performance as Mine Manager Matthew Gill, spending most of the movie looking concerned and constantly worried about his staff and the fate of the mine simultaneously. Once the rescue method had been settled on he pretty much vanished, though he did face off with Steve Vizard’s Carleton in the now infamous press conference that was to be the reporter’s last. Vizard proved he’s still a great character actor but no specialist at voices. Smaller roles for Anthony Hayes and Angus Sampson add interest and show the calibre of the cast and therefore the embarrassment of riches available to production houses today by way of Australian acting talent. The inclusion of real footage and news reports helps progress the narrative and allows of some Ch9 News stars to feature for authenticity. There’s a touching moment showing the real Todd & Brant at the end of the movie and how they’re getting on with their lives.

Beaconsfield is a hard-edged re-telling of the events that took place over that 14 day period that saw many men risk their lives to save their two mates. Hulme and Jacobsen not only offer themselves as great doppelgangers for the miners in question, but also deliver to extremely raw and intense performances. We all know how it ends but the journey is as compelling as it is frightening and triumphant. An amazing telemovie experience that will take you deep underground to the dark recesses of desperation when there is no hope, and back to the surface with the triumph of the human spirit that where there is hope, there is life.