Thirty-three men, trapped underground, and we don’t even know if they are alive?
Year Released : 2016
Director : Patricia Riggen
Cast : Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, James Brolin, Juan Pablo Raba, Kate del Castillo, Jacob Vargas, Cote de Pablo and Bob Gunton.
Right at the beginning of 2016 I moved to the city of Leeds and transferred from one cinema in a certain multiplex chain to another. The new cinema had 13 screens and this allowed more space for them to show smaller films, and therefore I was delighted, if a little surprised, when “The 33” was going to be shown.
Now whilst “The 33” did relatively well in America, it was practically non-existent in my native UK, and the fact that I was the only person in the screen (and one of only three people who went to watch it all week) should tell it’s own story, but I had been looking forward to “The 33” for some time.
Please bare in mind that this is more than likely going to be a much shorter review than usual given that it’s several months since I saw this, and I haven’t had the chance to rewatch it yet. The only reason I am reviewing it now is that my internet at home isn’t working and therefore I can’t watch new films online (and there are none on TV that interest me at the moment), and I’m reviewing this on my phone.
In 2010 a group of miners went to work in the San Jose mine in Chile. It started off as a normal day for each of them, with some having a normal day, others coping with drinking disorders and another having a very troubled relationship with his sister, but little did they all know that there were discussions going on as they entered the mine about how it was so dangerous.
The owner ignores all of the warnings but he is soon horrified as the largest rock in the mountain collapses, trapping 33 men under ground with a limited supply of air, food and water. Mario (Banderas) appoints himself leader of the group, but he struggles to keep morale up as no-one knows for sure if they are going to be rescued.
Meanwhile, several miles away, Laurence Golborne (Santoro) convinces President Piñera (Gunton) to allow him to mount a rescue, but when he gets down there he not only has to deal with the already troublesome situation of how to get the miners out, but also the gathering families outside of the gates and how he rarely has positive news for them.
Can Laurence get them out in time?
So did it deserve more attention?
In my opinion, most definitely. It has an excellent cast, lead by the ever dependable Rodrigo Santoro (more on him in a minute), a storyline that gets you hooked and best of all, it’s pretty much all factual. I remember watching the news way back in 2010 when this incident was going on and whilst you had other things going on in the world, the miners trapped underground kept me hooked to the television, and the film did the same.
Now I’m not going to sit here and claim that it’s a masterpiece, and it does suffer from the obvious and unavoidable issue that anything based on well-known events has done previously, and that is that you already know what is going to happen. Similar to most films based on major historical events, it’s hard to get truly invested because you know what is going to happen at the end, but ultimately the issue isn’t really that big in this due to the story telling.
The filmmakers do a great job of capturing the many layers to this film, such as how the miners are keeping motivated in the mine, their distrust of each other with a limited supply of food and water, how the families are interacting with Laurence, and how he also tries desperately to overcome all of the negativity to get the men out of the mine, and that is so interesting to watch because of the portrayal from Rodrigo Santoro.
Those who have read my site in the past will know that I am a big fan of Santoro, and two of his films have featured in my Top 10 for the year at one point or another in 2016 (this and “Jane Got a Gun”). He was also arguably the main antagonist in my second favourite film of last year, Focus (you can see my full top 10 here). Rodrigo controls any scene he is in and this is no different.
You feel the characters anguish as he wants to help in many different ways, but is restricted by guidelines and safety issues, and he faces an internal battle to keep his own positivity up in difficult circumstances. His is a very different type of performance to those trapped underground, and with no disrespect to any of the actors who played the miners, I found the above ground scenes more interesting.
That isn’t to say that the scenes in the mine are bad, not in the slightest. With thirty-three characters in that situation you’re obviously not going to get to know everyone, but the film tries it’s hardest to get as many covered as possible and it relatively succeeds.
As I said earlier, the only real problem that “The 33” has is that the edge is taken off by the fact that you know what’s going to happen when you go in, but that still didn’t stop me from enjoying this, and as mentioned a few paragraphs ago, it was in my Top 10 for the year so far at one point (although it’s since been replaced).
An enjoyable drama that keeps you engrossed in what is going on, and Rodrigo Santoro unsurprisingly shines in his role. Surely it’s only a matter of time before he gets the lead in a major Hollywood film, rather than just a bit part player?
“The 33” is an excellent film and whilst it stretches a bit at times, it is still a great watch and I would definitely recommend it. Don’t get in expecting action and scenes moving at a fast pace, it is a character based film and is mainly dialogue based.
If you go in expecting an edge of your seat drama, or something to be constantly happening, then you’re going to be disappointed. However, if you go in with the correct expectation levels then you should be absolutely fine.