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Even if you don’t remember news reports from 2010 about the Chilean miners trapped by a cave-in, it’s clear The 33 is based on actual events. Take that title; Hollywood screenwriters working from a blank page would have made it The Seven, or The Nine tops.
The 33 is so crowded with Chileans, casting executives had to call in Spaniards (Antonio Banderas), French women (Juliette Binoche), Brazilians (Rodrigo Santoro), Cubans (Oscar Nuñez) and whatever nationality Lou Diamond Phillips is. In fact, The 33 is remarkably Chilean-free, although local boy Diego Noguera plays “man in suit.”
Stick with me, because I do have some nice things to say. But it’s worth pointing out first that, in another nod to U.S. hegemony, all the characters speak English. And many of them have had elements of their lives mixed and matched to make them into more interesting composite characters; psychological alloys, if you want a metallurgical metaphor.
Finally, there’s the central event of the story: On Aug. 5, 2010, a huge slab of rock, 45 storeys tall, fell through the centre of the San Jose gold and copper mine. This not only trapped 33 miners more than 700 metres underground; it gave Hollywood its first chance to show an actual Godzilla-sized catastrophe without having to invent it first.
And yet in spite of this ready-made calamity, the filmmakers still found it necessary to include an additional flying-truck hazard. When there’s an iPhone app available to let you add a spinning, airborne vehicle to your home movies, that might be a sign that professional moviemakers can move on to other tricks.
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