Magazine article Variety

The 33

Magazine article Variety

The 33

Article excerpt

FILM REVIEW

The 33

DIRECTOR: Patricia Riggen

STARRING: Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, Gabriel Byrne, Lou Diamond Phillips

Five years ago the world held its collective breath, as 33 miners, trapped for 69 days after a cave-in at the San Jose Mine in Chile's Atacama Desert, emerged one-by-one from a capsule lowered 2,300 feet below the surface. As a real-time TV event, it was every bit as riveting as O.J. Simpson in the white Bronco, but considerably more inspiring, thanks to the bravery of the miners and the persistence and ingenuity of the rescue effort. "The 33" aims to enact a comprehensive survey of efforts above ground and below, but winds up looking less like a sober docudrama than a ginned-up Irwin Allen disaster movie. The inherent uplift of the story may survive the wafer-thin characterizations and the conspicuously non-Chilean ensemble, but B.O. safe passage is hardly assured.

The trouble begins almost immediately, as director Patricia Riggen ("Girl in Progress") and her phalanx of screenwriters hastily sketch the miners during a retirement party in Copiapo, Chile. As it happens, the grizzled honoree has a few days left in the gold-and-copper mine before hanging up his hardhat, and another (Mario Casas) begs for extra work because his wife is expecting soon.

The party gives other ill-fated laborers a brief introduction, each with conflicts or personalities that are never expanded upon beyond a phrase: There's Edison Pena (Jacob Vargas), an Elvis impersonator; Yonni Barrios (Oscar Nunez), who's in the middle of a feisty love triangle; and Luis Urzua (Lou Diamond Phillips), whose warnings about mine safety go unheeded. Other key players come aboard later: Dario Segovia (Juan Pablo Raba), an addict estranged from his steadfast older sister, Maria (Juliette Binoche), and Carlos Mamani (Tenoch Huerta), a Bolivian newcomer who attracts suspicion from the group.

When the 121-year-old mine collapses, sending the 33 deep underground to an area called the Refuge, they coalesce around Mario Sepulveda (Antonio Banderas), aka "Super Mario," a spirited and indefatigable leader. As Super Mario and his comrades work to stretch three days' worth of food and water, the rescue effort hits a snag when the mining company fails to act, and the Chilean government takes over at great political risk. …

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