A complex portrait of both the frailty and the tenacity of the human spirit, Warner Bros. motion picture release THE 33, starring Antonio Banderas, Lou Diamond Phillips, Juliette Binoche and Gabriel Byrne takes viewers on a harrowing ride to the core of a compromised mountain as well as a dark night of the human soul. With visceral action sequences that make you feel as if you are one of the trapped 33, paired with unexpectedly graceful touches of both humor and fantasy, THE 33 falls just shy of being the revelatory Lord of the Files masterpiece that it is aiming for, but is still an extremely worthwhile and moving film to see and experience.
THE 33, which references 33 miners who were trapped 2300 feet underground for sixty-nine days starting on August 5th, 2010 and ending on October 13, 2010 in Copiapo, Chile is a true story. As such, director Patricia Riggen had the difficult task of telling the story dramatically with a responsibility to 33 people and their families to get it right. Riggen does the job admirably with the help of a forceful performance from Antonio Banderas as the indomitable Mario Sepulveda and the unexpectedly authentic and incandescent portrayal by Juliette Binoche of Maria Segovia, a Chilean empanada vendor with an estranged brother trapped in the mines. Lou Diamond Phillips also serves as a brilliant counterpoint to Banderas’ unflagging optimism as the pessimistic and guilt riddled Don Lucho, the hapless and impotent foreman whose sole responsibility was the safety of every man within a mine that he suspected early on could quickly become a deathtrap.
The job of the actors outside of the mine is where the stress of telling the real story of too many subjects and too many social issues starts to show. Gabriel Byrne in the role of Andre Sougaret, the mining specialist brought in to navigate bringing 33 men out of a situation no one truly expects them to survive suffers from the onus of too much stock exposition on the logistics of why only a miracle should be able to save those stuck underground. Additionally Rodrigo Santoro who plays Laurence Golborne, the lone Chilean politician that appears to have a conscience, does a great job with what he’s given but would have been better served with more time spent explaining why he cares so deeply as well as what his personal familial cost was over those difficult and uncertain sixty nine days.
Of the brightest parts in the execution of THE 33, the last supper sequence which is as lush and fanciful as it is dire and despairing is a precious gem in a movie that truly does the story of a modern day miracle well without too many departures into the overly saccharine. Daring to communicate in the most direct and tangible ways that sometimes the worst of circumstances can bring out the best both technologically and personally in a world where often we expect and demand the worst, THE 33 is more than worth your time.