“I believe we will make it out of here because I choose to believe it! All 33 of us,” yells Mario Sepulveda (Antonio Banderas) to Don Lucho (Lou Diamond Phillips), cutting off Lucho’s short speech on how all 33 miners will die underground in the dramatic film The 33.
Back in 2010, 33 Chilean miners found themselves trapped underground with only enough food and water to last three days after the San Jose mine they were working in collapsed. When word of the disaster reached the miners’ families, they held vigil at the gates refusing to go home, effectively putting pressure on the owners to try to save the men. Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro), Chile’s Minister of Mining working for the President of Chile (played by Bob Gunton), travels to the site to evaluate the situation and tries to light a fire under the manager to do everything possible to save the men. When he first arrives he’s greeted by hostile and impatient wives and other family members of the miners, and gets an earful from Maria Segovia (Juliette Binoche) whose brother is one of the miners buried underground. Knowing this could be a terrible disaster for the families as well as the country, and genuinely moved into wanting to help save the men, Golborne quickly begins to go above and beyond what most bureaucrats do in this type of situation.
The President of Chile, not wanting to seem uncaring and trying to avoid a political nightmare, sends Andre Sougarret (Gabriel Byrne) – the best man for trying to find the buried miners – to the site to work with Golborne. The plan is to to send multiple drills down to try to find out if the miners are still alive. At first the two men seem to butt heads and disagree on how to go about the rescue operation, but soon Sougarret and Golborne become strong partners in working together trying to save the miners.
Meanwhile, the miners are hunkered down in the refuge inside the mine. They start to raid the food supply and Mario stops them, telling them they have to conserve carefully what little food and drink they have in order to give the rescue team time to find them and dig them out. The men quickly elect Mario as the man in charge of distributing the food and water because of his personality and strength of character.
Back above ground, the search is sluggishly moving forward, hindered from making progress because of hard rocks that the drills can’t cut through and that are diverting the drilling the wrong way. Finally Golborne realizes they need to look at all the wrong drills and learn from that so they can re-position the drill to end up where the miners are – or should be. The crazy plan works and the drill breaks through not far from where Mario is trying to sleep. The miners yell, bang things, and tie some clothes to the drill to let the rescue team know they’re there and alive. Elated that they have found all the miners alive, Sougarret tells Golborne now we have to find a way to get them out, something that’s never been done before.
Based on the amazing true story, The 33 is an intense, gripping, and at times emotional film with solid performances from its strong cast. Antonio Banderas delivers a powerful performance as the dynamic Mario Sepulveda, a natural leader who refuses to give up and fights to keep himself and all his brother miners alive. It’s one of Banderas’ finest performances of his career. He is the heart and soul of the film.
Rodrigo Santoro is extremely effective as Golborne, the bureaucrat who finds himself truly caring about the miners and their families and who becomes instrumental in getting the resources needed to help not only find them but also find a way to get them out. In many ways his character is the one the audience will most likely identify with. Gabriel Byrne is great as Sougarret, the experienced driller who initially is all about making it clear to Golborne the odds and statistics are against them but after a short while finds himself getting caught up in trying to find and save the miners.
Juliette Binoche delivers a strong although at times a little over-the-top performance as Maria, the scene-stealing big sister of one of the miners who always speaks her mind and is almost always in someone’s face. The quiet scenes between her and her brother via video, and those with Golborne, are emotional without becoming forced.
The production design and look of the mine is impressive, and the choice to shoot on location helps to make the film feel authentic. The 33 features one of the best, most realistic disaster scenes put on film, a riveting scene that will have the audience gripping their armrests. Perhaps the only problem with The 33 is the pacing which at times seems a little sluggish. There’s an unnecessary and silly dream sequence featuring the miners being served their favorite meals by their families down in the cave that slows down the film and feels intrusive.
Inspirational and engrossing, The 33 is an emotional, stirring, and crowd-pleasing film that should not be missed.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for a disaster sequence and some language
Running Time: 127 minutes
Release Date: November 13, 2015
Directed By: Patricia Riggen