Pages Navigation Menu

"No matter where you go, there you are."


Review: The 33


Director: Patricia Riggen

Writers: Mikko Alanne, Craig Borten, Michael Thomas

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, Gabriel Byrne, Mario Casas, Lou Diamond Phillips, Jacob Vargas, Oscar Nuñez.

Synopsis: Based on the real-life story of the 33 Chilean miners who became entombed after the gold and copper mine they were working on collapsed.

Despite its global coverage, the story of the 33 miners, who became trapped for 69 days in their subterranean workplace, was a very Chilean story. The atmosphere created around the site by optimistic, festive friends and family, as well as the harsh environmental and political scenario was culturally distinct. These events have happened around the world, in varying cultures, but this story will always be remembered for the Chilean miners – not just the miners trapped for over two months. This then makes the issue of The 33, the new film adaptation of Hector Tobar’s book, so noticeably problematic – the clearly Americanised version given to audiences.

With a whole cast of Spanish, Mexican and Cuban actors, there shouldn’t be much call for an almost-entirely English dialogue. Arguably, had this film been made in its native tongue, there would be more worth, and perhaps more believability ingrained in its scenes. What’s left is an overly polished, flat drama that comes out looking like a made-for-TV special.

In terms of the technical attributes, there is little beyond James Horner’s melodic score (sadly, his penultimate composer credit after his death, with his Magnificent Seven score comes forward as his swansong) that stands out as worthy. The editing, botching moments of actual melancholy to maintain the imaginably contractual “uplifting” aspect, stands out as the worst element.

There may have been a genuinely elevating end to this story, but the writers and director seem implored to write in that naively American “we will power through” manner. Therefore, the dramatic moments of pain, fear and uncertainty are masked by peppering optimism throughout. Only two characters – an alcoholic suffering withdrawal down in the mine, and a newly employed, ostracised Bolivian – break through this barrier, yet it’s for the briefest of moments. They are also just some of the few characters that – even with the ensemble being based on real people – seem authentic. Following on from the point about its bastardised Hollywood treatment, you have three non-Latino actors playing way outside of their comfort zone. Gabriel Bryne, Juliette Binoche and Bob Gunton all play Chilean people because, evidently, Chile doesn’t have many actors. In fairness to them all (because they are top-quality actors), they believably take control of their roles. However, being written so two-dimensionally, you don’t look beyond their very straightforward roles.

Given a bit more to do are Rodrigo Santoro, Antonio Banderas and Lou Diamond Phillips. The latter is by the far the most complex person – the health and safety manager, helplessly trying to keep his team alive, usurped by Banderas’s Sepúlveda – nonetheless underused. Santoro plays a calm, selfless government official, and keeps the film on its it’s very mangled toes, thanks to his levelled approach.

Overall, nothing commands your attention, as both under and over ground teams work to keep despondency at bay, with only the rescue injecting a sense of emotion into it. The tone is too blistered by the three writers’ input, and no set piece or character stands out (except, maybe Jacob Vargas’ Edison ‘Elvis’ Peña – an incredibly irritating and whimsical part). You may walk away from The 33 in awe of the feat pulled off to get the miners out, yet you won’t remember the people who were saved by it, or by the people who orchestrated it (“was that James Brolin?”). Hollywood interference, and a lazy production, will have you begging for this film to be buried.



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.