If you need a break from gratuitous movie-making – from hyped up sci-fi, super-spies, super- villains and disappointing comedies – you might want to take a look at The 33, where the drama is both gripping and organic and where the heroes are simply men who dig holes in the ground with massive drills.
Nobody shoots a gun, dashes away in a high-speed boat or gets to kiss a leggy blond in The 33. The film’s most riveting character is Mario Sepulveda, played by Antonio Banderas, who does a great job tucking away most of his charm to play a blue-collar (very dirty collar) miner trapped underground for more than two months along with 32 others. Nonetheless, what charm he has helps keep the trapped miners together when their ordeal is at its toughest moments. Mostly, however, “The 33” puts away the Hollywood gimmicks that the film industry loves so much.
Much of the triumph, admittedly, is above ground, where Mario’s sister Maria Segovia, played by Juliette Binoche, is the center of attention, as she stands resolute with her demands that the owners of the San Jose de Copiapo mine put it in gear and push forward to rescue their brothers, fathers and husbands. The task is so daunting that the company, at first, declares any rescue attempt a lost cause. When they are pushed and when the government begins to feel the heat of embarrassment for their lack of effort, the tide shifts and rescue efforts get underway.
Much of the film is predictable, given the mass of publicity the rescue provoked in 2010. The one gratuitous scene, a fantasy of a lovingly served meal while the miners are trapped below with food running out, is so beautiful that it cannot be blamed for it’s obvious intrusion into the storyline. Call it a tip of the hat to Hollywood, but how else do you put a man’s fantasy into film other than to break from the script and go for it?
Granted, with 33 men trapped down below and the whole world waiting and hoping on the surface – the story attracted worldwide attention – there is not enough time to include every personal story that could have been explored. The film has been criticized mostly for taking too many short cuts. But this film has solid directing, a terrific cast and Binoche and Banderas leading the way, above ground and below. I’m not sorry to say there is no alien spaceship explosion at the end. Instead, the men, one by one, are reunited with their loved ones, with sunlight and with fresh air. Batman does not make an appearance, but human beings do. Simple, unassuming human beings. They just want to survive. Is that too much to ask?