Sunday, January 03, 2016

The 33

Year: 2015
Director: Patricia Riggen
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, Lou Diamond Phillips, Gabriel Byrne, Bob Gunton, Mario Casas, Juan Pablo Raba

Plot: Based on the true story of 33 miners trapped for 69 days after their mine collapsed in Chile in August 2010.

Review: The well-known mine collapse in Chile back in 2010 has finally been made into a film. After watching this, I can imagine how hard it must have been to translate this story to celluloid and make it different from every other true story that has come before it.

The 33 starts out with a small introduction to our miners, which are pretty much your regular guys trying to make a living. A loving family man, a man whose wife has a baby coming soon, a senior miner on his last 2 weeks, an Elvis impersonator, a homeless drunk trying to earn some wages, and a Bolivian immigrant, among others. The miner in charge of safety notices the mine starting to destabilize, but the company ignores his warning. The 33 miners go down, the mine caves in, andthe men have to survive in the dark while the Minister of Mining does his best to plan a rescue attempt as the miners' worried families start to camp outside the mine.

On paper, the film might actually work. But the script doesn't quite measure up. To be fair, Mexican director Patricia Riggen keeps the film moving along briskly enough for at least the first two-thirds. She was at least able to balance enough time spent between the miners' ordeal underground and the situation outside where Minister of Mining Laurence Golborne tries to handle the families and the rescuers' attempts.

But the script doesn't give enough sense of urgency to the proceedings, especially once the miners are discovered to be alive. The script also seems to focus on only half a dozen miners and not more. Granted, it would be hard to address all 33 of them, but acknowledging a few more wouldn't hurt. There are also a few unintentionally funny elements here, like a scene where they hallucinate being served their favorite meal by their families, and the subplot about one of the miners having a wife and a mistress who lives just next door, which is supposed to be funny but doesn't quite fit into the overall story. The subplot about the Bolivian miner being picked on by the others was interesting though.

The cast do well enough overall. Antonio Banderas performs the best as lead miner Mario, who manages to keep his men in order and ration their supplies as best he can. Rodrigo Santoro is alright as Golborne, but doesn't quite have the screen presence required to convincingly portray a minister. I'll give him credit for trying though. Juliette Binoche also stands out as Maria, the estranged sister to one of the miners, and Gabriel Byrne is good too as the lead rescuer.

The best part of the film comes at the end when Riggen introduces the audience to the real 33 miners as they are today. At the very least, she ended the film well.

The 33 is overall a serviceable true account film, but it's only halfway decent. It follows all the beats of most true stories told on film but doesn't quite achieve the dramatic impact it was aiming for. (6/10)

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