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‘The 33’ is a deep dive into a heartwarming story

By Richard Bonaduce, Standard-Examiner Correspondent - | Nov 12, 2015

“Let’s get us some miners!”

In 2010, much of the world held their collective breath while 33 miners were trapped some 2000 feet below ground for nearly 70 days in Colombia. 

Since much of this movie is well known, the filmmakers wisely get right to it and the collapse that cuts the miners off from the surface is swiftly introduced and powerfully depicted onscreen.

Also wisely done is the amount of time spent above ground, getting to know not only the families and friends who pray for their loved-ones’ safe return, but the bureaucrats who are moved to pull out all of the stops to rescue them.

The film doesn’t shy away from the monetary concerns in mounting such a rescue — the miners were never compensated. Also shown is dissention in the underground ranks over trivial things (like a music player) and the essential (like food). 

Amazingly, the idea for this movie was already a concern for the miners while they were still trapped underground. Topside there was a carnival atmosphere pervading the small city near where the mine collapsed. The lives of their families became fodder for the local news media and the miners themselves became celebrities of a sort. “Super” Mario Sepúlveda (Antonio Banderas) is offered a book deal first and keeps it secret from his fellow imprisoned miners.

Eventually, the news leaks and causes issues among the men and leads to yet another in a series of underground rallying speeches. Banderas and Lou Diamond Phillips know how to sell them, belting them out with zest and heart.

But mere survival was order of the day for weeks before help arrived down a 5-inch tube punched into their small cavern. The scenes depicting the struggle to keep their heads level, even while their stomachs were empty and their hearts were heavy are genuinely moving.

A fantastical aside far below the surface is one of the many highlights of the film.

Another wise move was to allow for the miners to be humans. One of them has a drug problem and is going through underground withdrawals. Another has been cheating on his wife and his adultery makes for uncomfortable headlines far above. Some are young enough to long for a life ahead of them, while others are retiring and hate the thought of a long life ending this way.

Although the “ah-ha” moment that allows for a rescue is a bit unclear, the miners eventually must take matters into their own hands anyway and use their skills to assist in their own rescue. Through teamwork they stay alive long enough for their ingenuity to matter, and the two teams work together, above ground and below.

There probably won’t be a dry eye in the house when the rescue succeeds and “Super” Mario is leading the cheers for his fellow miners still trapped below, awaiting their turn. The real Mario met Antonio Banderas in Colombia during the first days of filming and became supervisor of the extras for the movie.

But where are the Chilean actors?

Hispanic American journalist and novelist Hector Tobar thoroughly researched the event and conducted extensive interviews with each of the miners, their families and some of the authorities involved. His book Deep Down Dark is the inspiration for this movie, but I would have liked to have seen such attention to detail in the casting as well.

Stick around for the Credits which literally put a very real face on the event; but with such a

large cast, it would have been helpful to show their professional counterparts in the film.

***1/2 stars

120 minutes

Rated PG-13 for a disaster sequence and some language


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