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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

The 33 | Antonio Banderas, Lou Diamond Phillips, Juliette Binoche, Bob Dunton, Rodrigo Santoro, Mario Casas, Juan Pablo Raba, Don Francisco, James Brolin, Gabriel Byrne | Review

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3sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is MEDIOCRE Judy Thorburn

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3lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is MEDIOCRE

 

The 33

In 2010, via on the scene media coverage, the world watched with bated breath as 33 Chilean mine workers were rescued after being trapped in a copper and gold mine 2300 feet beneath the surface for 69 days.  Their miraculous true story is recounted in Mexican born director Patricia Riggen's (2007's Under the Same Moon) drama, scripted by Jose Rivera, Mikko Alanne, Craig Borten and Michael Thomas, based in part on Hector Tobar’s 2014 book “Deep Down Dark”.

 Featuring an international ensemble cast led by Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro and Lou Diamond Phillips, only a little more than a handful of the 33, some whom are composites, are given minor storylines or brief descriptions. Due to the film's running time of two hours, there was a limit as to the number of characters that could be given screen time.  The central focus is on what transpired during the miners' horrific ordeal, and the relentless above ground effort to rescue them.

Shift supervisor Luis Urzua (Lou Diamond Phillips, in an impressive return to the big screen) knew that the 120 year old mine was a disaster waiting to happen.  He had warned his cold hearted boss about the weaknesses in the structure, which was received with blatantly ignored. So when Luis and his crew wind up being trapped under 720,000 tons of rock, he is wracked with guilt, feeling responsible that he didn't fulfill his duty of keeping his men safe. Mario Sepulveda, aka “Super Mario” (a commanding perfomance by Antonio Banderas), a devoted family man becomes the group's leader, taking it upon himself to carefully ration the food and water, break up fights and act as the glue to keep his “brothers” from losing hope and falling apart while maintaining their dignity in the face of extreme circumstances and the real possibility of death.

Among the men whose lives are put in jeopardy are Gomez (Gustavo Angarita), an old timer looking forward to retiring in two weeks after 46 years on the job;  Alex Delgado (Mario Casas) a handsome young mechanic who decides to try mining as a means of earning more money for his wife Jessica (Cote de Pablo) and their new baby on the way; Dario Segovia (Juan Pablo Raba) a troubled alcoholic, estranged from his only family, his sister Maria (French actress Juliette Binoche); Yonni (Oscar Nunez, of The Office) a married man with a girlfriend on the side; Edison (Jacob Vargas) an Elvis impersonator, and Carlos (Tenoch Huerta) a Bolivian, considered an outsider and subjected to constant ribbing by his coworkers and whose first day on the job is a disaster.

Having narrowly survived the collapse of “the heart of the mountain” and able to seek safety in an area called The Refuge, the 33 are forced to make the best of their dire circumstances which includes choosing to believe that they will make it out, even though the odds are stacked against them.  When the mining company refuses to take action and relinquishes control, the government steps in with the Chilean President (American actor Bob Gunton) sending Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro), the new Minister of Mining to oversee the rescue efforts, working closely with chief engineer Andre Sougarret (miscast Irish actor Gabriel Byrne, unable to mask his Irish brogue beneath an unconvincing Chilean accent). Meanwhile, led by Dario's fiery sister Maria, the self appointed spokesperson, the families of the miners keep a steadfast vigil in a makeshift camp near the collapsed mine.

While the men are stuck underground in the dark and claustrophobic space, incredible rescue efforts are going on high above their heads by a team of international drilling experts (don't blink or you will miss James Brolin in a cameo role as an American engineer) working non stop, around the clock, to reach their targeted destination, deliver some food, supplies, and a camera for communication, before a cylinder could be sent down to carry each man, one by one, safely to the surface.  Although there were several setbacks during the long and grueling operation, the consistent, hard work eventually led to a successful outcome, that was witnessed by over a billion people from around the globe.

I remember sitting in front of my TV and being overcome with emotion as I watched the miners being led out of, what was for them, the pit of hell. Unfortunately, this true story, as depicted on the big screen is not as compelling nor harrowing as it should be, which is due to the uneven tone that left me feeling somewhat disconnected.  Throwing in a pinch of humor to add some levity to the scenario is one thing, but a scene where each of the miners are sitting around a table for their “last supper” and hallucinating about being served a delicious meal by a woman they love, comes across as hokey, over the top and out of place, which I blame on the director. Under the helm of another, this could have been presented in such a way as to be poignant rather than plain silly.

Nevertheless, The 33 is a good, but not a great film, despite effective, strong performances by Banderas and Phillips.  Needless to say, nothing can detract from what truly amounted to daring acts of heroism, courage, a triumph of the human spirit, and an uplifting, happy ending.  It is an amazing story retold in what, unfortunately, is not an amazing movie.

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