Won’t be missed11/18/2015
Five years ago, 33 miners were buried alive in Chile’s 121-year-old San Jose mine. Trapped in an unstable mountain that continued to move throughout the rescue, in 90-plus degree heat, with only enough food to last 30 men three days, this is a tale that’s captivating no matter how it is presented. Unfortunately, Patricia Riggen’s “The 33” fails to unearth anything interesting.
Let’s face it, the only way you haven’t heard this story is if you were born after 2005 or you were buried under a rock. Against all odds, every man survived for 69 days while the entire world watched. Again — it’s a great story. But not every good story needs to be made into a movie.
The fact that this is a true story creates more problems for the film than opportunities. As the title clearly states, 33 miners went through this excruciating ordeal that tested each to his core. However, a light is shined so briefly on each of these characters that only about eight are given a real back story, while the others are left looking like extras in their own film.
The cast is led by Antonio Banderas who plays “Super” Mario Sepúlveda, a miner who takes charge of the situation from the start. His impassioned speech about maintaining the hope that, even if the community won’t rescue them, their family will, “even if they have to dig us out with their bare hands,” is solid. His natural leadership abilities and faith keep his brothers’ morale up. Because of this, the group selects him as its leader, putting him in charge of the key to the meal rations.
Shift supervisor Don Lucho (Lou Diamond Phillips) is the realist of the group. He was aware of all the safety issues and warned his boss about them only to be told to make things work anyway. He understands more than the others just how little management and their supervisors care about their miners.
Amongst the other characters that get a decent amount of face time: Álex Vega (Mario Casas), a mechanic working as a miner to provide for his pregnant wife; Yonni Barrios (Oscar Nuñez), the man who famously had his wife and mistress show up during the rescue efforts; and Dario Segovia (Juan Pablo Raba), an alcoholic forced to go through withdrawal during their entrapment.
Above ground are the bureaucrats, engineers and women. The minister of mining, Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro), only four months on the job, faces a resistant administration that would rather see this whole thing just go away. The women, friends, wives and daughters form a shantytown outside the fence, forcing the administration to act.
While the men’s ability to survive is remarkable, this movie is not. We know before we enter the theater that this story is inspiring, but most of the visuals feel dull. The underground survival scenes involve a lot of waiting around and eating rations, while the attempts to rescue the miners — the main members of whom are not played by Chileans, which is a missed opportunity — are repetitive and not in the least bit tense.
The film wraps on a beach with black and white shots of the actual miners involved in the accident. Their experience — no doubt the worst of their lives — was created because of an economic stranglehold perpetrated by politicians and business owners who don’t seem to care about their people. You’re left with an odd taste in your mouth as their smiles are overshadowed by the written anecdote that the mine was not found legally responsible, and none of the men received any sort of reparation. CV