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Review: The 33

The moment when The 33, the new film five years removed from the miraculous true story on which it’s based, really steps up comes between the time the title group of miners is discovered, but before they are rescued. They are now well-fed, connected, and as comfortable as one can be some 2000 feet below the surface of the Earth in a humid dark mine shaft cordoned off with 32 of your hardy coworkers.

It’s at this point in the film, directed by Patricia Riggen, that the viewer might start to remember the details of this global story more fondly. In the summer of 2010, a mine shaft collapsed in Chile, trapping 33 miners, and with food for only a mere few days, it was astounding that anyone was found alive.

So now equipped with clean clothes, sneakers, Skype, iPods and much tastier food than the watered-down tuna scrap on which they were surviving, it becomes apparent the group that the outside world has made them heroes and celebrities, though one more than others.

Mario, played with exuberance and determination by an always charming Antonio Banderas, assumed the leadership role, and in doing so, became the face of the miners. Whether or not he wanted to be in charge and wanted to become famous is at the heart of an interesting discussion.

Riggen hits all the key notes in this workmanlike story, resisting for the most part making the film more sentimental than the true story already is. There is trouble wrangling some of the characters above ground into anything more than clichés. The moment at which two often feuding men, Rodrigo Santoro and Gabriel Byrne, finally figure out how to reach the men seems both disingenuous and absurd.

There is plenty of room for worried family members (Juliette Binoche) and dutiful rescuers (James Brolin), and The 33 really gets moving when the world finds out, as Riggen drops in global newscasts and is able to have a lot more people moving above ground and below it.

A static film, where 33 men barely move and eat in dribs and drabs below ground, and families mourn above, turns on a dime as the film moves towards its climatic and well-envisioned finale.

The 33 nods at the politics, religion, and capitalism surrounding the story, distilling the lives of the many miners into that of a select, diverse few. That a female Mexican director was given the opportunity to make a film that will surely find an audience in North America and beyond shouldn’t be as big of a deal as it is, but it is.

If nothing else, The 33 is a rare story on film. It’s functional and simple yes, yet also a film that is true but not sensationalized, and one whose ending wouldn’t be believed except for the fact that it actually happened.

[star v=3]

Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.