Patricia Ridden’s The 33 boasts an international cast led by Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche and Rodrigo Santoro to tell the true story of the San Jose mine that collapsed in August of 2010, leaving 33 miners trapped 200 stories below ground for 69 days. Based on the drama that captured the attention of the entire world and adapted into a screenplay by Craig Borten (Dallas Buyers Club), Mikko Alanne and Michael Thomas, the film takes viewers on an emotional journey of survival.
Wasting no time with lengthy character development, the first scene celebrating the retirement of an old-time miner (Gustavo Angarita) briefly introduces the storylines of the miners who receive the most prominent screen time. Banderas’ character, Mario, is a devoted father who asks to work on his day off to better provide for his wife and daughter. Alex (Mario Casas) is a young father-to-be who rejects his elders’ constant persuasion to leave the mines to work in an auto body shop because it is safer.
As the group of 33 men began to descend into the mine, the outcast of the group — a Bolivian newcomer (Tenoch Huerta) — foreshadows their eventual confinement when he asks “Is this the only way in?” to which someone responds, “Only way in, only way out.”
Shot on location in two working Colombian mines, the film mimics the desolation of the Atacama Desert and the vast space below. The screenplay further juxtaposes the extreme turmoil unfolding both above and below ground. Maria Segovia (Juliette Binoche) serves as the tenacious ringleader of the families who refuse to accept any form of government complacency while Banderas’ character, nicknamed “Super Mario,” is the level-headed leader responsible for rationing three days of food between 33 men trapped beneath a rock two times the size of the Empire State Building.
Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro), Chile’s Chief of Mining, is put to the ultimate challenge when he must serve as the liaison between the miners, families, engineers and his boss, the Chilean President. He works tirelessly with the chief engineer on the operation (Gabriel Byrne) and the American drill expert (James Brolin) who are searching for a way to defy the one percent chance of locating the miners and bring them to safety.
Riggens incorporates real news footage from the three-month crisis to emphasize that the whole world really was watching throughout all rescue attempts. The audience will likely share a sense of frustration after watching problematic drills perpetually setback the process of locating the trapped miners. But as the men began to reach their mental and psychical limits, the rescuers finally struck gold and discovered their location. Food, clothing, medical supplies and a videocamera to monitor the miners’ statuses were sent underground as the engineers quickly constructed a capsule big enough to hold one person and rescue all 33 men that had not seen their families or the light in 69 days.
Ultimately, The 33 brings a highly suspenseful event to cinematic culmination and highlights how the miners, their families and the rescuers never lost their sense of hope despite all odds against them. Make sure to bring your Kleenex to the theater starting Nov. 13 because the soundtrack and storyline will surely bring a tear to even the toughest eye.
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