Lighthearted formulaic approach for a true disaster survival story
Some higher paying jobs are just not worth it. Based on a true event in 2010, The 33 is about the 33 men who got trapped over 2,000 feet underground of a very old copper-gold mine Copiapo, Chile. The narrative shows what's happening down there among the surviving miners while also depicting the rescue attempt by the people above. It may seem like a thrilling claustrophobic drama but it's more funny than anything else and it's not the good kind of funny. The film certainly doesn't show enough respect or sensitivity to the terrifying disaster.
Antonio Banderas (The Expendables 3, The Mask of Zorro) plays "Super" Mario Sepúlveda, who becomes the charming and strong reluctant leader of the trapped miners and is among the very few who's recognisable at all, but apparently, in true accounts, the actual leader was Luis "Don Lucho" Urzúa portrayed by Lou Diamond Phillips (Sanitarium, La Bamba) as one of those who gave up at the beginning. Juliette Binoche (Godzilla, The English Patient) plays María Segovia, one of the miners' sister who led the rally for rescue outside the mine. Rodrigo Santoro (he's Xerxes in 300) plays Minister Laurence Golborne who is authorised by the Chilean president to initiate a rescue operation while Gabriel Byrne (Vampire Academy, The Usual Suspects) portrays André Sougarret who's the experienced engineer who tries to figure out the entire drilling and escape plan.
Most of the cast performs well but none of their roles have proper development, depth or even consistency. Some of them can be nice and tough in one scene and then totally gives up hope later without much of a progress to that. Then they also have an alcoholic character, Dario (Juan Pablo Raba), who's an ass in one second and then totally in control in the next. They can be suffering from hunger, claustrophobia or internal conflict but that's never genuinely felt throughout the film, nor was I emotionally attached to any of the characters, or even the situation, at all.
The film dramatises the true story with probably a lot of fiction and yet the film's still pretty boring with no weight or substance at all to anything apart from the alleging that the scumbags who own and run the mine were partially responsible for the accident and intended to neglect the 33. These people are still left unpunished by law today. The film's tone is strangely lighthearted and the dialogues (all in English) are extremely cheesy. Some scenes are so unnecessarily goofy and carnival-like, it'd make the audience doubt that there'd be any real tragedy at all. Tissues are totally not required watching this film.
Director Patricia Riggen (Girl in Progress, Under the Same Moon) and the writers tried to fit too much in to make the film more interesting but in the end only making its narrative uneven, out of focus and totally unengaging. The film should've simply focused on depicting the survival and rescue operations itself instead of all the distractions with the dumb character relationships and imaginations. Didn't 127 Hours (2010) already prove that it's possible to make a great inspiring survival drama without doing too much?
Malaysia censorship: I can't remember anything that needed to be cut or even muted.
Second opinion: My girlfriend thought that the film is okay and quite touching.
Verdict: Watchable but highly unengaging and definitely forgettable.
Rating: 2 / 5
Country / Language: Chile, Columbia / English
Genre: Survival drama
Running Time: 127 mins
Director: Patricia Riggen
Screenwriter: Mikko Alanne, Craig Borten, Michael Thomas
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, James Brolin, Lou Diamond Phillips
Malaysia Release Date: 31 December 2015
Local Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures Malaysia
Production: Alcon Entertainment, Phoenix Pictures, 360 Films
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