Wednesday, November 11, 2015

“The 33”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a New York Times Film Club screening of “The 33”, starring Antonio Banderas and Juliette Binoche.


When Chilean miners are trapped underground, can they be saved before there’s a fatality?


In Chile, men with limited skills have few options when it comes to employment; for many, the only choice is the dangerous job of working in a mine. Nevertheless, to support themselves and their families, men risk their health and life to earn a living. Despite supervisor Don Lucho (Lou Diamond Phillips) expressing grave concerns to his management about the safety of the San Jose Mine, he and his crew are being forced to work in this potentially hazardous environment. Needing extra money, Mario Sepúlveda (Banderas) joins Lucho’s team on what was originally scheduled to be his day off.

Once at work, the worst case scenario occurs: seriously destabilized from years of digging, the mine collapses, trapping all 33 members of the crew inside; all means of egress have been blocked. When word gets out about the accident, family and friends of the trapped miners arrive at the site, including one man’s wife and mistress, as well as María Segovia (Binoche), the estranged sister of miner Dario (Juan Pablo Raba). Chile’s president becomes involved when this becomes a nationwide story, so he sends Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro) to investigate and oversee the rescue attempts.

Discovering the mining company remains less than incented to rescue their trapped men, Golborne has the government call on all available resources; they bring in Andre Sougarret (Gabriel Byrne), the best mining engineer in the nation, to excavate in the hope of reaching the miners’ refuge. Overcoming various obstacles, he finally reaches them after they’ve run out of food. By now, the story of the trapped miners has gone global and various countries worldwide contribute resources to assist in the rescue. But after the miners have been trapped for two months, can any rescue attempt be successful?


So many Chileans and all of them speak perfect English! Perhaps these are some Hispanics that Donald Trump might not object to having in our country. Seriously, “The 33” has the feel of a made-for-television movie, so it’s a wonder it’s getting a theatrical release; part of that made-for-TV feel is the corny screenplay which contains some of the most witless dialog imaginable. Equally unhelpful is some rather blatant scenery chewing by Banderas (a difficult accomplishment from inside a mine, one might imagine), who acts as de facto leader, coordinating distribution of their severely rationed food supply.

“The 33” tries to juggle multiple stories so it doesn’t become static by focusing solely on the miners themselves. There are scenes with the families, the politicians and the rescue crew, among others. Where the problem is encountered is when Golborne appears to be developing something of a romantic relationship with María; presumably, the filmmakers developed this contrivance because they felt they needed a romance injected somewhere in the story to keep certain segments of the audience interested. Unfortunately, it comes across as being so hopelessly artificial that it calls the credibility of the film into question.

Regarding the opening statement about everyone in “The 33” speaking English, it is something of a curiosity and can take you out of the movie rather early on. Perhaps the decision was made to do this because the primary market for this film is supposed to be America; possibly, the thought of requiring people to read subtitles would alienate a mainstream audience. Too bad. The problem with doing this is that it certainly creates a substantial absence of authenticity to the motion picture, especially when you have cast members who clearly speak the native language. The addition of known actors (i.e.., Byrne and Binoche) for whom Spanish is obviously not their native language may have played a significant role in this decision as well.

The 33 (2015) on IMDb

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