List Film

The 33 (3 stars)

Feel-good take on the 2010 Chilean mine rescue, with Antonio Banderas

The 33

The true story of the 33 Chilean gold and copper miners trapped underground for an incredible 69 days must have seemed like a sure-fire recipe for a crowd-pleasing, awards season movie. But the rush to get director Patricia Riggen’s film into cinemas, five years after the event, results in an unabashed hagiography rather than an edgy or reflective take on the material.

Antonio Banderas smoulders like a pirate-on-heat as the charismatic Mario, a tough miner who steps in to discipline and organise his brothers as they attempt to eke out their increasingly meagre rations. Juliette Binoche plaintively pines on the surface, James Brolin and Gabriel Byrne are amongst the gruff rescuers, and the drama follows most of the well-recorded twists of the extraction process, as detailed in source novel Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar.

The 33 ends with a cameo from the miners themselves, and one of the more enlightening scenes features their screen counterparts debating how they’ll portray and sell their story if they get back topside. Unfortunately, such revealing nuggets are swept away in the general feel-good whitewash: all the miners are presented as good-hearted men; the mining company does a bang-up job of rescuing them; and the only hint of negativity is attached to the behavior of Chilean president Sebastián Piñera (Bob Gunton), with the issue of declining conditions for mine-workers only briefly addressed.

The final recreation of the rescue, with the men popping up one by one into the open air via a mechanical capsule, packs an unearned emotional punch. But, despite dramatic physical effects during the initial structural collapse, The 33 lacks the claustrophobia expected, playing out like a 70s disaster movie minus the narrative tension.

General release from Fri 29 Jan.

The 33

  • 3 stars
  • 2015
  • 127 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Patricia Riggen
  • Written by: Mikko Alanne, Craig Borten
  • Cast: Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche
  • UK release: 29 January 2016

Based on the true story of 33 Chilean gold and copper miners who were trapped underground for an incredible 69 days, this aims more for feel-good whitewash than anything edgy or reflective, and despite efficient performances from a starry cast it plays out like a 70s disaster movie minus the narrative tension.


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