Review: The 33 (2015)

Director: Patricia Riggen

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche

Release Date: 29th January 2016

One of the top worldwide news stories of 2010 was of the caved-in Chilean miners, now dramatized in The 33. The idea of watching a movie about 33 miners that were trapped underground for 69 days brought up fears of claustrophobia for me. I’m a chicken, I know. It didn’t happen though. The parallel mix of the story below ground and above ground is so compelling that the dark, dramatic scenes underground didn’t even faze me. I am still amazed how those 33 miners coped, but it seems it took the love of family, brotherhood, constant faith, and their proven strength of the human spirit.

Mikko Alanne, Michael Thomas, and Craig Borten wrote the script. The film is based on the screen story by Jose Rivera and the book “Deep Down Dark” by the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, Héctor Tobar. Tobar had exclusive access to the miners, and his book, was the National Book Critics Circle’s Nonfiction Finalist in 2014. I really wonder why the film itself hasn’t been given more awards, for acting, directing, writing, etc.

The director, Patricia Riggen did an excellent job on this film. I’m not surprised she was chosen to also direct this year’s Miracles from Heaven.

The film’s opening text is, “Every year 12,000 miners die in accidents around the world.” This is the story of miners in the San José Mine in Copiapó, Chile. Some of the 33 consist of a Bolivian, a father-to-be, a man set to retire in 2 weeks, and Chilean everymen, all just trying to earn a living, the best way they can.

On what should have been an ordinary day down in the mine, the ordeal begins, when the mountain gives. The miners are forced to escape to the refuge, 2,300 feet below ground and 94°F. The special and visual effects are done believably well in displaying that plight.

Laurence Golborne (elegantly played by Rodrigo Santoro), the Minister of Mining, says it’s the Chilean government’s moral responsibility to save the men. The men were only equipped with 3 days of food and water. The odds of rescue were against them.

In 2010, this story was all over the news, everywhere. And perhaps it was that notoriety that kept up the rescue momentum. On Day 14, Don Francisco lent his support and gave his clout, as the popular Sábado Gigante host, (among other things). It was high profile exposure that probably helped the authorities and the then President Sebastián Piñer to go above and beyond. The spotlight was on Chile for that bit of time, a heavy responsibility but they didn’t drop the ball.

The miners’ families never gave up either. In the film, Antonio Banderas plays Mario Sepúlveda who concludes, “Family is all we have.” Truth be told, did the miners benefit from his film? I hope so, somehow.


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