The eyes of the world were fixed for 69 days on the Acatama desert in Chile, where 33 miners were trapped in a mine two kilometers down. The picture directed by the Mexican Patricia Riggen captures the events from a day previous to the accident until the recovery. The wide news coverage the event had and the well documented successs of the enterprise detract the element of intrigue on the story telling, so importance is directed to the drama inside the mine and out.
For reasons that defy my understanding, a story that takes place in Chile with two Spanish speaking leads, and a cast that puts and effort to speak ingles with an accent, the picture is conducted in English. All but the song Gracias a la Vida and the appearance of Don Francisco apparently deemed untranslatable or a token of acknowledgment. I have been told that the film market and its possibilities for distribution dictate over common sense and respect for the vernacular.
The story is dictated by the events, so the script by Jose Rivera, Mike Alanne, Craig Barten y Michael Thomas does not have much margin for elaboration; the plot is linear, focusing on the human drama of survival, when the hold on life prevails against all odds and solidarity is the way to subsistence. The film is a tribute to the courage to face adversity with hope, and how the strength to hang on to life overcomes our primal nature. A portrayal of perseverance, resiliency, and creativity, as well as a critique on vested interest, corporate irresponsibility and shady deals with governments, so the rope breaks where it’s thinnest.
The desolate immensity of the desert is a visual and drastic contrast with the claustrophobic constriction of the hole where the men are trapped. The music of the region also contributes to set the scene for a first rate cast headed by Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoshe, Gabriel Byrne, Lou Diamond Phillips, Rodrigo Santoro. Only Banderas, Binishe and Diamond Phillips have some dramatic margin in the ensemble and they render it with their usual bravado.
A frequent resource in true-life stories is strengthened to include the real characters at the end. Although their appearance is brief, the kindness the miners radiate helps explain how and why they managed to survive. An effective epilogue to the plot and a well deserved recognition of their valor. It should also be stated that the survivors were not compensated by and no charges were brought against the mine owners.
Copyright 2015 by Jose M. Umpierre. The publicity photos for The 33 are used under the “fair use” proviso of the copyright law.