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“The 33” Film Review by Gregmo Roberts

Underground miner ranks right up there with crash test dummy and sword swallower as jobs that you couldn’t pay me enough to career.

So when 33 miners were trapped inside a collapsed gold and copper mine in Chile in 2010, I could only watch the events unfold on TV while ruminating on how my fear of dark and tight spaces would place me on the other side of sane by the time they were rescued 69 days after the collapse.  

The story of the miners and the rescue efforts that eventually helped them escape their tomb is dramatized in the new film The 33.  Starring Antonio Bandaras, Lou Diamond Phillips, Juan Pablo Raba, Rodrigo Santoro and Gabriel Byrne, The 33 draws from the real life experiences of the survivors and those that rallied together for their rescue including the family members of those trapped that watched helplessly for weeks as efforts stalled and optimism dissipated.  

Directed by Patricia Riggen (Girl in Progress), The 33 does very little to rise above anything more than a television movie-of-the-week.  It has all the elements in the all the right places – emotional speeches, disappointing setbacks, triumphant results in the nick of time.  It has all the elements in such a rolled out fashion that the execution of the script pages seemed more like a checklist of what-to-do’s rather than diving into character development and involvement that would attach an emotional response towards the miner’s plight.  

Banderas rises above the others in a powerful performance, but his supporting cast tended to flounder the Chilean accent so badly that it became a distraction during some of the film’s heavier moments.  

Other ‘unrecognizable’ actors lending their talents to the production are James Brolin, Juliette Binoche and the beautiful Naomi Scott who play above ground worriers that allow filmmakers to escape the murky setting of the enclosed cave.  The open air scenes are a welcome distraction from watching a bunch of men ration food and try and lift each other’s spirits while sitting in darkened corners but barely scratch anything but a character surface while adding to the running time.  

The film is wonderfully scored by the late James Horner to which the film is dedicated.  Listening to the music in both tense and triumphant moments just further punctuated what a loss he was this past year.  

But the score and Banderas were hardly enough to elevate the film.  We found a few holes (they were down in the mine for 69 days yet don’t grow facial hair?) and we were a bit disappointed that the final reel didn’t show any scenes/pictures of the actual miners or the events that were spooled on instant repeat on CNN during the ordeal.  

The overall result is not necessarily a bad one.  It is a piece of history that should be triumphed for the worldwide efforts that assisted in the rescue, but the film is like skipping a stone on a placid lake – it dips in the water every once and a while but generally just skips along the surface before sinking into a forgettable abyss.

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