Film: “The 33”, Cast: Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, James Brolin, Lou Diamond Phillips, Mario Casas, Juan Pablo Raba, Kate del Castillo, Angie Del Carpio, Bob Gunton and Gabriel Byrne; Director: Patricia Riggen; Rating: ***1/2
Based on a real incident that occurred in the mines of Chile, “The 33” is a riveting, heart wrenching survival drama that reinstates your faith in god.
It is the retelling of the 2010 Chilean mining accident, where 33 miners were trapped in the San Jose Mine, situated in the Atacama Desert. How the miners hold on to their sanity and hopes while they wait for extrication, forms the crux of the tale.
Those following the incident would probably know the outcome of the accident: the miners were rescued after 69 days. But what makes Patricia Riggen’s film, worth a watch is the outstanding performance by its principal cast and the sincerity with which she has handled the subject – constantly reminding the audience that surviving this situation is nothing short of a miracle.
While the entire world watched what transpired above ground during the gruelling and long drawn out rescue, she brings to the surface the saga of the miners’ experiences from Hector Tobar’s book titled, “Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of the 33 Men Buried in the Chilean Mine and the Miracle That Set Them Free”.
The crisp script, written by Jose Rivera, Mikko Alanne, Craig Borten and Michael Thomas divides its focus among four distinct groups: The miners deep in the Earth’s belly, the rescue operation along with the miners’ families, the government and the media.
Playing the emotional note, the film relies on easy sentiment to fill the many gaps in its characterisation. The plot emphasises on family ties and bonding. With scenes that indulge in flashback, inspirational spiels, group prayers and the desperate attempt for a successful rescue operation, it propels the story forward making the narration interesting as well as dramatic.
What adds to the flavour is James Horner’s South American notes and sentimental composition that layer the dim desperation of these men. The lilting musical score makes it feel like a divine moment of relief and is visually playful without going over the top.
The bevy of fine actors who give powerful performances include Banderas as Mario Sepulveda, the default leader of the group who does not command his men but exudes confidence, the will to survive and be together. It is touching to hear him say, “They’ll dig us out. If they don’t our families will, with their bare hands if it’s necessary. I believe we’ll make it out of here because I choose to believe it. All 33 of us!”
He is supported by characters with various issues. Looking dirty and grimy, they may seem archetypical but nevertheless they were the survivors and they all do a fantastic job. Lou Diamond Phillips as the guilt ridden foreman Don Lucho is noteworthy.
Juliette Binoche as Maria Segovia, the “empanada” vendor along with her troubled brother Dario played by Jaun Pablo Raba, Rodrigo Sabtoro as the minister of mining, Bob Goton as Chilean President Pinera and Gabriel Byrne as the chief engineer Andre Sougarret, add a repertoire of emotions.
The camera work along with the creative lighting amidst darkness of the mines is worth a mention.
“The 33” is a well made inspirational film that reminds you of the 1951 release “Ace In The Hole”.