It captivated the world in the fall of 2010, and now the story of the miners trapped for more than two months in a collapsed Chilean mine comes to theaters as The 33. Not only do we already know the ending, many of the key players are also memorable– including so-called Super Mario, who served as the de facto leader of the miners. And though you may not remember his name, surely you remember hearing about miner Yonni Barrios, who had both a wife and a mistress at the time of the collapse.
Just because we’re familiar with the news, though, doesn’t mean we know the whole story, and director Patricia Riggen (Girl in Progress) manages to craft a fairly compelling movie in the end– especially considering the fact that long stretches of the film are comprised solely of forlorn men staring at granite walls while bickering engineers are above ground grinding drill bits into the earth.
But there’s obviously a very strong and very palpable human element at play, and it’s difficult to think of another recent movie that has such a stand-up-and-cheer quality as The .
Antonio Banderas turns in a powerful performance as Mario, the man who kept the men calm and was responsible for rationing what scant food they had. He was also the driving force in keeping hope alive 2,300 feet underground. Other notables in the cast include Colombian actor Juan Pablo Raba as Dario Segovia, who battled alcoholism and paranoia in the mine, and Juliette Binoche as his sister Maria, who spearheaded the families’ rallies topside.
Riggen does fine work, considering what she was given, in keeping the movie flowing along and also ramping considerable tension. There are also several perfectly-placed bits of humor that help the pace. The biggest issue, though, is with the script by Mikko Alanne, Craig Borten, and Michael Thomas. Why they felt the need to make virtually every single spoken word seem like something that could be cross-stitched and hung over the mantle is confounding. It’s almost as if they thought audiences wouldn’t grasp the power of the moment without hearing things like, “You are my brother. We are going to pull together to get out of here” and “That’s not a rock, that’s the heart of the mountain. She finally broke.” Couple that with cliches like, “If this fails, we’ll be bringing up 33 corpses,” and you get the idea.
When all is said and done, The 33 still manages to shine– a testament to the inspirational and miraculous real-world event that inspired it—the power of human beings to overcome what on any other day might well have been proven impossible.
As a side note, this marks the second-to-last film with a score by the late James Horner. As with Braveheart, Titanic, Apollo 13, and countless others, it’s Horner’s musical composition that serves as the true backbone of The 33.