Set in Pennsylvania, 1876, there are many workers in the coal mines. The opening sequences of this film are dialogue-free; however, we see men tirelessly working and a small group coming together secretly who manage to set off a large explosion. To viewers, it is obvious that this secret group is led by one of the workers, Jack Kehoe (Sean Connery). To the mine managers, this secret group has caused lots of trouble, yet somehow they have never been caught in the act.
Around the same time this explosion happens, a new person arrives in town and introduces himself as James McKenna (Richard Harris). James is seeking work in the coal mines and begins enquiring for work. The men don’t take kindly to his questions, and James is tested and forced to fight in a brawl. He manages to stand up for himself with confidence and a lack of fear. Soon after, it’s revealed to the audience that James is an undercover officer investigating the secret organisation and hopes to take them down once and for all. The two agents who were sent in before James both ended up dead. Now, James must discover who is part of this secret group, find evidence and obtain justice. Will Detective James successfully keep his identity a secret and undercover the gang rumoured to be known as The Molly Maguires?
The Molly Maguires is best described as a drama film. The secret group, The Molly Maguires,are strong in their standing up for themselves and their fellow workers. Each member carries a set of skills, but more importantly, they look out for one another. When newcomer James enters the town, no one is interested in being kind towards him. James must earn respect and stay safe while seeking the truth about the secret group. Watching an unlikely friendship form between Jack and James is delightful, believable, and sometimes touching. Performance-wise, I enjoyed Sean Connery and Richard Harris whenever the two shared the screen.
The setting of this film is excellent, clearly depicting a small community and the coal mines where the people work. The filming style is great and pleasing, including the opening shots, which consist of long takes that set the tone wonderfully. While somewhat repetitive, the musical score by Henry Mancini is uplifting, heroic and majestic.
Overall, The Molly Maguires tells a compelling, engaging story, and it’s a dramatic feature worth investing in. While the premise of a group of workers making a stand for themselves might not seem to be anything new in the present day, it is captivating. Viewers are left wanting to know if certain leading characters will ever get caught in the act. Leading actors Sean Connery and Richard Harris are great here, especially whenever the two share the screen. There are heartfelt moments as their new friendship grows. The ending; however, is slightly abrupt and somewhat rushed compared to the rest of the film.