Antonio Banderas : Mario
Lou Diamond Phillips : Don Lucho
Juliette Binoche : Maria Segovia
“The 33” is impressive, unnerving, claustrophobic and touching at the same time. But at the same time also a bit superficial. The true story of a mine disaster in Chile which happened in 2010. This disaster got a lot of media attention. The entire world witnessed the rescue operation in which all the unfortunate miners were brought back to the surface. One aspect of the movie is hereby nullified. There won’t be a surprising denouement. Anyone who follows the media a bit, knows how it ends. One fact amazed me though. How is it possible that precisely in this group the kind of colorfull archetypes were present? It seemed as if the group was deliberately composed in such a way that it would be the ideal company to make a film about, the moment something went wrong. What a coincidence.
The group is a hodgepodge of poor devils, risking their lives for a pittance on a daily base. Only the mine owners are the ones getting filthy rich. Of course, the following types were present. First, we have an old-timer on the verge of retirement. Next an alcoholic who’ll get the most rigorous detox. Luckily there’s a priest among them to support him. Of course there’s also a father-to-be. And then you have two individuals who are completely different when it comes to character traits. Mario (Antonio Banderas) is the epitome of positivism and believes in salvation from the first minute. And Don Lucho (Lou Diamond Phillips) is the one who gives up hope the moment they discover that all emergency exits are fake and they are trapped like rats. I expected the latter to sing an underground version of “La Bamba” in order to keep their morale high.
The moment disaster strikes, the film takes place at two locations, with groups fighting their own battle. First the topsoil. Those left behind struggle against those responsible for the mine, because they don’t have the intention to undertake a rescue attempt. Those relatives also try to get this mine disaster on the political agenda of the Chilean Government. A representative of the Government, Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro), cares about what happened with these poor miners and launches an international rescue operation. And secondly those who are stuck in the mine and who struggle against hardships, their buddies and most of all themselves.
The film succeeds in outlining the situation in a proper manner. The hope to find a way out and the despair that strikes when all alleged emergency exits of “the refuge” appear to be unusable, because of the lack of food and the malfunctioning communication. An intriguing picture of the hardships endured by these 33 miners. Unfortunately it became rather superficial after they got stuck there. A missed opportunity in my opionion. They could dig deeper (euh…) into the personal lives of these gold diggers. Who were they? And what about their family life? All we get to see are a group of brave persons in deplorable conditions. And above them there’s a race going on between several firms hoping to score a publicity stunt. They just need to be the first one who can provide a way out.
“The 33” seems like an exciting documentary. A disaster film that takes place deep underground. But despite the big names and the miraculous rescue (surviving two months on a ration of a few days), it remains a typical disaster movie. Exaggerated special effects were shunned and the “we-won’t-give-up” feeling was omnipresent. But it could have been more. The depth those unfortunate 33 men were trapped in was significantly (about 700 meters). However, in general the content of the film was little.