The 33 Nov13


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The 33

I am not particularly afraid of the dark, and I’ve never suffered from claustrophobia. Yet the thought of being trapped, underground, with limited food, with limited access to light, or water, or oxygen; with a bunch of other guys who might just want to eat my flesh in order to survive (or whose flesh I might want to eat in order to survive), is a bit…well, unpleasant to put it mildly.

the33_1sht_main_dom_2764x4096_largeThat is the essential premise of The 33, the latest ripped-from-the-headlines biopic to hit theaters this fall.

Based on the true-life events surrounding 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground for more than two months after a mine collapse in 2010, The 33 will draw immediate comparisons to Ron Howard’s epic space opera, Apollo 13 – both positive and negative. At their core, both films tell a story of incredible perseverance, faith and ingenuity against insurmountable odds. In both cases, the audience, if they are informed of current events and history at all, already know the outcome. It is no spoiler to say the astronauts on Apollo 13 made it home alive. It’s just history. I’m not giving away the ending by saying the miners get out alive. This is history, after all, not a Quentin Tarantino re-imagining of events. And yet, in the shared darkness of the theater, the tension is still palpable.

Filmed with the cooperation of the miners, their families and their rescuers The 33 reveals the never-before-seen actual events that unfolded, above and below ground, which became nothing less than a worldwide phenomenon. The international cast, led by Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Academy Award winner Juliette Binoche (“The English Patient”), James Brolin, and Lou Diamond Phillips is stellar.

On the positive side, the story itself has enough inherent tension to keep you glued to your seat. The politics of survival below ground are matched by the politics of public perception on the surface. The distrust of citizens toward their government is obvious, and the pride of the gold miners is juxtaposed intentionally against the need (or greed) of the mine corporation. As the world watches, you can almost hear Captain Kirk in the back of your mind reminding us that sometimes, ‘The needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many.”

On the negative side, the film version plays out more like a news report than a story. It just felt like there was so much more to be explored. I never felt the weight of the mountain crushing down on me, or sensed the palpable nature of the pervasive darkness of a mine. Perhaps the tension was spread too thin across the 33 miners (in Apollo 13 the tension was focused on only 3 astronauts (perhaps a more recent example would be The Martian, where we only have one stranded astronaut to worry about).

Still, even with its flaws, The 33 is a remarkable story that deserved to be told, and deserves to be seen.  I give it 4 out of 5 headlamps.