Film Review – The 33
In late 2010, the world became aware of 33 miners in Chile that were trapped with no means of escape. It became a phenomenon with their eventual rescue being broadcast live as each miner arrived to the surface. The subject of many proposed dramatizations of these miners’ experience, their story has made its way to the big screen in The 33, the only version that has the support of the miners and their families.
The 33 does indeed feature 33 miners, but the film focuses on a few of the miners and their families, mainly Mario Sepúlveda (Antonio Banderas), Don Lucho (Lou Diamond Phillips), Yonni Barrios (Oscar Nuñez), Darío Segovia (Juan Pablo Raba), Carlos Mamani (Tenoch Huerto), and Alex Vega (Mario Casas). Their stories below ground are juxtaposed against those of their families above ground. The families are the ones who demanded focus on their loved ones’ situations and resulted in the Chilean government stepping in and bringing international attention to it.
The challenge of a film adaptation of this sort is making it new and interesting for the audience. What can you offer that we don’t already know or have already seen? The answer is the collapse of the mine and the miners’ struggle to survive. It is only after you see this film that you grasp how far down they were (2300 ft) and what exactly happened. What is depicted on screen is well done and amazing. It comes close to the terror and magnitude of “The Mines of Moria” sequence of The Lord of The Rings, just with less orcs. It has great CGI and the massive rock that traps them is rightly imposing and huge.
Food and water is the biggest issue for the miners as they only had a three day supply in their emergency kit. The divvying up of the food and water is a big part of the film, and the last of their rations is used to create an ingenious “Last Supper” sequence. Each man imagines getting his favorite dish delivered by their beautiful wives and girlfriends.
While the film does have some “made for TV” qualities, I cannot fault them for that. What I can question about this film is its casting choices. The men are Chilean, with the exception of one Bolivian. Somehow French actress Juliette Binoche ends up as a sister of one of the miners. It is weird in the trailers and it is weird in the film. Gabriel Byrne (Irish) plays Chilean engineer André Sougarret who spearheaded the rescue project. Another casting “Huh?” would be Bob Gunton as Chilean President Piñera. Why are you using French, Irish, and American actors to play Chilean characters? They probably needed some star power for their film to raise it up a notch. It did not work, they look out of place, and it is awkward.
While the whole ordeal is very serious, the film injects some humor into the bleak situation. Along with aforementioned “Last Supper” sequence, the complications and trials of the mistress and wife of Yonni Barrios, the impending retirement of Mario Gomez (Gustavo Angarita), and the jokes about being Bolivian for Carlos Mamani are all used to inject comedy into a dramatic situation.
The 33 is a well-done dramatization of the harrowing ordeal of the 33 Chilean miners. It is much better than I expected it to be, and save for some bad casting choices and hokey TV movie moments, it is one that I would recommend seeing. It gives you a better appreciation of the miners’ side of the story, and the impressive CGI and attention to detail below ground make it a great, untold story.
Stay through the credits to see each of the miners as they are today.