Friday, November 13

REVIEW: The 33

Directed by Patricia Riggen
2015 Drama
2 hours 7 minutes
From Warner Bros and
Alcon Entertainment

Antonio Banderas
Rodrigo Santoro
Juliette Binoche
Gabriel Byrne
Lou Diamond Phillips
Mario Casas
Juan Pablo Raba
Bob Gunton
James Brolin

I suspect one would have to have been deep in a mine oneself in 2010 to not have heard of the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped in a deep gold and copper mine.  The collapse of the mine and the 69 harrowing days it took to rescue the men played out in every news outlet around the world.  It is not at all surprising the event was turned into a film.  Frankly, it is a compelling real-life drama made for the big screen and it has been presented well.

Little screen time is wasted before we are deep in the disaster.  There are the briefest of introductions to some of the miners.  The narrative plays out in four areas... the miners, their families, the government and the rescuers.  If the story presented is even close to the reality of the event, then there must be some praise given to all concerned for their adult behavior.  I found myself thinking it could never have played out in such a manner here in the States.

What hysteria there is involves mainly the families who are at the site day and night and for days on end not knowing whether their loved ones are dead or alive.  They are also miffed that rescue efforts are not started immediately.  Tensions increase when it is discussed that, although they have oxygen (and I confess I didn't quite get why that was), food and water was limited to about eight days. 

Rodrigo Santoro as the Minister of Mining gets personally involved in the rescue, setting aside the fact that Chile's president seems a bit underwhelmed by the state of the events.  Lou Diamond Phillips is the mine supervisor who, though a bit passive, warns his boss that the mine is not safe but he is, of course, ignored because of the cost.  Antonio Banderas promotes himself as the leader of the 33 and though he is challenged along the way, it is clear that without him, things 2,000 feet underground wouldn't have gone nearly as well.  Gabriel Byrne was authoritative as the leader of the rescue operations.

Juliette Binoche is featured as one of the family members... her estranged brother is one of the miners.  She is the only actor of the family members that I have heard of.  I expect there will be those carping about the non-Chileans in all of the lead roles but one might further question how well this film would sell with Chilean actors in the leads.  Still, with so many unknown actors, the feel of authenticity was elevated.  I will say that all-American Bob Gunton (the mean warden of The Shawshank Redemption) as the Chilean president must have been a joke.  What, was Edward James Olmos busy?

One might question how well the film will do.  One reason for that is the story is basically still fresh and we know how it ends.  That fact may dull the finale somewhat for some although I wasn't invested in that whatsoever.  And a large chunk of the story concerned getting, having, keeping drill bits and if that doesn't excite you, there's a chance this one isn't for you.  My anticipation was the emotion that would be wrung out of me and on that level I was certainly not disappointed.  I distinctly heard some sniffles and was surprised to find they came from me.

It would be easy to put this off as just another survival story but it was more compelling than that.  The fluidity with which the screenplay moved from the miners to the families to the rescuers to the government was striking.  I'm an easy mark here though since I am drawn to stories of peril where folks pull together and some do heroic things.

The acting was all that it needed to be.  The late James Horner provided a dramatic musical score and Checco Varese's photography was in your face.  As one who is a bit claustrophobic, I practiced some deep breathing during the mine sequences.  Patricia Riggen is another director I have not heard of but I thought she did well in a story that focused on men.  Her touch certainly brought out the emotional element of the film.

A clip at the end, just before the credits, featured the real 33 miners.

Next posting:
Warner Bros.

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