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The 33 ~ A Capsule Movie Review

The 33

The 33 ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp

In August 2010, a cave-in at a Chilean gold mine trapped 33 miners 2300 feet underground (it took a hundred years for the mine to get that deep). The 33 is the story of the unfortunate miners and the heroic efforts to get them out of the mine, a weeks-long endeavor that wavered from hope to despair and back to hope again. Antonio Banderas plays Mario Sepulveda, the leader of the miners who maintains a semblance of order among the desperate men (rationing what little food and water they have) and who refuses to believe they are all doomed to die.

It’s many days after the mine cave-in before the people on the surface know that the miners are still alive. Meanwhile, the families of the miners build a kind of tent city on the site, unwilling to go home and wait to hear if their loved ones will, by some miracle, be brought out alive, or if the mine will be sealed forever with the bodies of the dead. The minister of mines, Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro), representing the Chilean government, assures the families that every effort will be expended to bring the miners to the surface, but even he knows there is little chance of success. The president of Chile seems mostly concerned with the political ramifications for him if the miners die.

Discovering that the miners are alive after 16 days gives new hope to the families and to those involved in the rescue effort. Drilling begins with three drills running 24 hours a day. It takes days for the drills to get that far down and when they do, they miss the open space where the miners are located. Just when they are about to give up, they decide to use the deviation to their advantage and try again. Finally they drill a shaft right over where the men are. They can get food and water to them through the shaft, but the problem still remains of how to get them out. It’s a race against time because an enormous rock with twice the mass of the Empire State Building, the rock that caused the initial cave-in, is pressing down on the mountain and threatens to slide down even farther to where the men are.

We already knew the miners were brought to the surface alive after 69 days, but The 33 shows how it was done and at what cost. The success of the undertaking could be largely attributed to two men: Mario Sepulveda, the leader of the miners below, and Laurence Golborne, the Chilean Minister of Mines, both of whom refused to give up in the face of overwhelming evidence that the cause had been lost.

There are a few familiar faces in The 33, but most of the actors who play the parts are unknown and speak in heavily accented (though mostly understandable) English. Juliette Binoche, barely recognizable, plays the sister of one of the young miners. Lou Diamond Phillips, surprisingly effective, plays the mining safety engineer trapped with the men, who must deal with his guilt because he knew the aging mine wasn’t safe. Irish actor Gabriel Byrne seems an odd choice to play the Chilean mining engineer in charge of the rescue effort.

The 33 is not flashy or over-produced but is just a straightforward telling of a true-life story that captured the attention of a large part of the world back in 2010. I found it much more engrossing and involving than the mountain-rescue movie, Everest. And the underlying theme is simple: don’t give up, even when nothing is going the way you think it should; or, to put it another way, God helps those who help themselves.

Copyright 2015 by Allen Kopp


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