The ordeal of 33 men trapped in a Chilean mine in 2010 attracted the world’s media. That story demonstrated the indomitable human spirit in a way this Hollywood film version doesn’t match
Almost as soon as the 33 men trapped in the San José mine in Chile were rescued, the disputes and recriminations over potential film adaptations of their extraordinary ordeal began to surface too; for low-paid men in a normally ignored industry in a marginalised part of the world, unwittingly caught up in a genuinely astonishing feat of derring-do that commandeered the world’s media for weeks, an unthought-of opportunity had opened up.
The disagreements are still rumbling along in the background, even as the film is unveiled: a modestly budgeted Hollywood production, starring Antonio Banderas and Juliette Binoche, with the Mexican-born director of Girl in Progress, Patricia Riggen, behind the camera.
While the release of The 33 may not have been preceded by a widely seen documentary on the same subject – something that befell The Walk and Steve Jobs, and appears to have marred their commercial chances – the news footage of the ordeal is so familiar that a feature would have to offer up something pretty special to compensate.
Unfortunately, The 33 doesn’t. It’s a solid, well-constructed film that gets across the basic story of the mine collapse and the subsequent race to drill down and reach the trapped crew, graced with one or two special-effects sequences to add a bit of punch.
But, hamstrung by the inevitable decision to film in English, there’s a fundamental disconnect between performer and dialogue: scenes that should be emotional, gritty, or tender, come off as weird, comic, or plain cheesy. Added to which, there’s a definite movie-of-the-week sensibility about The 33, with its heavily signposted plot points and rammed-home character arcs.
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