True or False: ‘The 33’s cinematic treatment of the 2010 Chilean mine disaster – by Jennifer Yang (Toronto Star – November 13, 2015)

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What do the filmmakers get right and wrong bringing the harrowing rescue attempts to the big screen?

On Aug. 5, 2010, a gold and copper mine near Copiapo, Chile, collapsed and trapped 33 miners underground. Sixty-nine days later, they were brought back to the surface in a spectacular rescue televised around the world.

It was an event so momentous that some have compared it to the moon landing. And I was lucky enough to be there.

My three weeks covering the rescue of “los 33” were among the most memorable of my life and I often wish I could revisit that inspiring moment in time. Well, now I can — sort of. And you can, too. Today, the movie version of the rescue, The 33, hits the big screen.

When I watched the film in a pre-screening, many things were exactly as I remembered. But given that this is Hollywood, the movie takes some creative liberties. Here’s what The 33 gets right about los 33 — and what it gets wrong.


Of the 33 miners, truck driver Mario Gomez was the oldest at 63. But the camera must add 10 years, because his movie version looks way older.

Portrayed by Colombian actor Gustavo Angarita, the movie Gomez is weak and frail; the real-life version is actually pretty spry. On screen, Gomez is balding with a snowy-white Santa-style beard; off screen, Gomez has a full head of hair and prefers to be clean-shaven. He even emerged from the mine with a bare face, thanks to razors and shaving cream provided by the rescuers.

The film also plays up the drama of Gomez’s story by opening the movie with his retirement party; the mine actually collapses during his last day on the job. In the real world, Gomez did have plans to retire, but not until later that year.


My biggest eye-roll moment was during one particular scene that, for Canadians, is a bit of a slap in the face.

There were three teams, dubbed Plan A, B and C, working furiously to drill the rescue hole. Two had Canadian connections; Plan A was supervised by a driller from North Bay, Ont. [Cementation], and the Plan C drill was owned and manned by Calgary-based Precision Drilling Corp. There was a three-way race to reach the miners and Plan B, the American drill, ultimately won.

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