Deep within the mountain which is the two hour journey of the new film The 33 lies an interesting true story of endurance and survival. It’s really too bad that it’s trapped under a massive and impenetrable slab of melodrama which smothers out some of the brightest points in the movie. Even worse, it wears away some of the real life intensity of the situation to choose a glossy Hollywood cliched direction.
Based on the true story of a group of 33 Chilean miners who found themselves trapped two thousand feet underground for 69 days, the movie dives headlong into setting up who each person is very quickly. Right away, the emphasis on family and comradery is clear. Mario (Antonio Banderas) is hosting a party with his co-workers, immediately establishing him as the go to leader. At the party is a piece of the comic relief “Elvis” (Jacob Vargas) and Dario (Juan Pablo Raba), who’s about to become a father with his wife in the final term of her pregnancy. We have many of the prerequisite melodrama boxes checked.
To check more of these boxes we get Juliette Binoche, in one of three odd casting choices, playing the older sister of one of the drill operators who is depicted as an angry and anti social drunk and Lou Diamond Phillips as the shift foreman who warns the top brass about the unsafe conditions but doesn’t relay it to the crew. To top it off we get the old timer character in his last two weeks before retirement. Requirements met: cue the manipulation.
Now, I know that many of the base traits and back story of each character is based on the actual people, but the writer of the film has obviously taken each thing and turned it up to eleven in a script that takes a steady decline in quality as the film progresses. The issues that arise between the 33 miners are small but many. We get the “problems of the moment,” which are quickly wrapped up – within minutes of each other – and for all the film’s trying to have some conflict, all of it is way too fleeting to stick.
The production choices of the film also served to fail it in the long run as well. Joining Binoche in the odd casting department, this film had Gabriel Byrne coming in midway through the film as André Sougarret (an engineer brought in to extract the miners), and Bob Gunton as the Chilean president. Both give haphazardly accented performances and just leave you wondering where all the Spanish actors are.
An easy oversight to seriously consider and take issue with stems directly from the casting. Why is this movie so Americanized? Why are they speaking English (especially since for one scene in the movie a character sings a whole song in Spanish?) I’m not suggesting this film has an easy fix by throwing some subtitles on it, but the film does try to celebrate this as an inspirational Chilean story. To me it reeked of an obvious reach for the mainstream rather than a celebration of these men’s incredible ability to endure.
This isn’t by any means the awful piece of garbage I thought it was going to be. If you watch the trailer for this you might be turned away by it as it tries every sappy tear jerker thing possible. This includes using a song called Say Something (I’m Giving Up On You) which seems wildly inappropriate given the circumstances. Maybe the sheer awfulness of the trailer allows me to be a little nicer on The 33, which I give a two out of five.