Possible spoilers ahead!
33 miners entered the San Jose copper-gold mine in Chile’s Atacama Desert on August 5th, 2010. None of them knew they would be trapped that afternoon when the 121-year old mine collapsed all around them. Buried 2,300 feet under the earth, the miners managed to take shelter in the mine’s “refuge” room which housed emergency rations and medical supplies.
Unfortunately, the refuge room was poorly stocked, and only intended to accommodate 30 workers, forcing the trapped miners, led by shift foreman Luis Urzúa (Lou Diamond Phillips) and Mario Sepúlveda (Antonio Banderas), to carefully allocate food and water, extending their survival for as long as possible.
Meanwhile above ground, news of the mine collapse reaches Chilean Minister of Mining, Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro) as well as the Chilean President Sebastián Piñera (Bob Gunton), and the pair immediatly start a rescue effort. But given instability within the mine, as well as logistical challenges of locating, much less recovering the trapped miners, the Chilean government must call upon the best engineers, medical professionals, and drilling teams from across the globe to assist in one of the most complicated rescue attempts in world history.
Based on the book “Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free” by Los Angeles Times writer Héctor Tobar, “The 33” was brought to the big screen by Mexican director Patricia Riggen.
Now, I knew the basic story of the miners before watching the movie, but I did not know many of the details. As with most biopics, I’m guessing Riggen took a few liberties with the real San Jose mine story. But even if she did make changes, “The 33” was still a wonderful film.
The San Jose mine story made for a stirring drama, shedding light on what the 33 miners went through during their lengthy ordeal in 2010. The film is filled with tension, drama, humor, and joy. And even though you just met these miners, you feel invested in what happens to them. “The 33” also delivers quality performances from the cast (both above and below ground), with standout work by Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, and Juliette Binoche.
Antonia Banderas is charming as the film’s central protagonist, Sepúlveda, He serves as the movie’s (and the miner’s) “leader” figure. Throughout “The 33” Banderas never loses his enthusiasm or his hope for a rescue, and as a viewer, I loved that. Banderas also has some of the best one liners in the movie.
The film depicts complicated relationships with a gentle hand. Many of the movie’s best scenes occur in moments of tenderness, compassion, or shared grief. My favorite scene was the miner’s “Last Supper” which was strangely sad and funny at the same time. Never did I expect a movie like this to be as funny as it was, but you know what? It worked.
Is “The 33” the greatest drama I’ve ever seen? no, but if nothing else, the film succeeds in educating the audience on the situation as well as offering insight into the friendships, partnerships, and relationships that kept these 33 alive for so long.
“The 33” final score: 8