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Published On: Mon, Nov 30th, 2015

‘The 33’ Review: Great performances carry mining disaster drama

Great performances highlight a drab docu-drama surrounding the mining disaster which trapped 33 miners underground for over two months. The 33 bounces back-and-forth between the above ground efforts to save the men and the struggles deep under the collapse.

Set in the San Jose Mine in Chile’s Atacama Desert where a 2005 cave-in forced 33 miners to seek safety in “The Refuge” as they portion out food and water to survive. They follow the leadership of Mario Sepulveda (Antonio Banderas), aka “Super Mario,” a spirited leader who keeps them united under desperate circumstances. Under great political risks, Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro), the minister of mines, becomes the face of the rescue operation, first tapping into the refuge to get them supplies and then later plotting a big rescue with expert Andre Sougarret (Gabriel Byrne).

The 33 film photo Lou Diamond Phillips Antonio BanderasThe first half of the film is incredibly engaging, especially with Banderas on screen. A menagerie of moments  with a cast of characters interplay nicely: Edison Pena (Jacob Vargas), an Elvis impersonator; Yonni Barrios (Oscar Nunez, familiar from The Office), who’s in the middle of an explosive love triangle; and Luis Urzua (Lou Diamond Phillips), known to the men as “Don Lucho,” whose warnings about mine safety go unheeded.

Director Patricia Riggen lets The 33 become a great TV movie the second half of the film as the tension attempts to shift from survival to rescue. The role of Dario Segovia (Juan Pablo Raba), an addict who’s estranged from his older sister Maria (Juliette Binoche) was a highlight at this point as well as the interesting angle of prejudice surrounding Carlos Mamani (Tenoch Huerta), a Bolivian newcomer who attracts suspicion from the group.

Byrne is horribly miscast with a tragic accent and Bob Gunton seems out of place as Chilean President Pinera. The late James Horner score is so repetitive that it becomes irritating and distracting.

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 adds a fair amount of fiction to keep the story interesting. The actual miners may be teasing one another as Hollywood stars filled their shoes making them look good and heroic, even to a fault.

The 33 receives 2 1/2 stars out of 5 stars

While there are great moments, this is a far cry from Oscar films or more entertaining disaster films. Phillips and Rodrigo seem bored at times and everything is just too exaggerated to warrant a better rating even though The 33 is entertaining.

the 33_movie poster

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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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