The fact they made this thing is the only disaster

FILM by Jorge Ignacio Castillo


The 33
Galaxy Cinemas
Opens Nov. 13
2 out of 5

Following a cave-in on Aug. 6, 2010, 33 miners at a copper-gold mine in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile managed to survive 69 days trapped 2300 feet underground with minimal food, water and other resources. Their triumph was broadcast live to every corner of the globe. It was a rare feel-good story in the usually grim news cycle and had undeniable cinematic value.

The Chilean government milked the workers’ journey for its full media impact, and now Hollywood has come calling with The 33 — a terrible, yet undeniably entertaining film adaptation of the miners’ adventure and the minister who would stop at nothing to get them out of the pit.

With the exception of Antonio Banderas, who plays Mario Sepúlvida, the public face of the trapped miners who communicated with the outside world during their ordeal through daily video logs, the miners are given single personality traits: the drunk, the adulterer, the soccer fan, the Bolivian, last-day guy, etc.

Outside the mine, the families don’t fare much better. Because, really, it’s all about the good-hearted bureaucrat, mining minister Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro), who let nothing, not the shifty Presidente, the powerful slaps of a miner’s sister (Juliette Binoche) or even the laws of physics get in his way.

If you survive the hodgepodge of accents (no actual Chileans in the main roles, just Americans, Brazilians, Mexicans and the guy from La Bamba) and the telenovela-worthy script, there is still the wild overacting. Banderas is in a class of his own, but Binoche and Gabriel Byrne (as the engineer who planned the rescue operation) are no slouches when it comes to chewing the scenery.

The film is so concerned with the broadest dramatic beats, it misses two richer veins: the fact the owners did nothing to help rescue the workers and that conflict inside the mine only started after reestablishing contact with the outside (deals for books and interviews started before the rescue took place). The 33 wants to be about the power of community and the spirit of collaboration, but all you need is to dig deeper to find a less savory truth.

One last complaint: once again the villain is a Castillo. In real life, we are actually all bark and no bite.