By Christian DiMartino
The 33 tells an Oscar-golden story, but settles for the bronze. Here is a well-intentioned, gripping, but straight-forward and somewhat miscasted film that, despite its faults, has its heart in just the right place. There are pitfalls, but they slip past. Barely.
The film tells the true story of the group of Chilean miners (some of them are played by Antonio Banderas, Oscar Nunez, and Lou Diamond Philips) who were trapped when a gold and copper mine collapsed just a few years ago. They were trapped down there for 69 days.
We see their strength and courage as they try to keep it together, rationing their food and dreaming of the outside world. The film also focuses on their families above ground, and their struggle to keep it together. It also, of course, focuses on the rescue mission.
The miners’ endurance surely was tested, and sitting through The 33 can feel like an endurance test of its own. Perhaps it is because we know the outcome already. Nonetheless, despite its slow stretches, watching them reach that outcome can be riveting at times. When I see a film like this, I try to imagine myself in the characters’ shoes. Hopefully, I never have to try those shoes on.
The film also features a good score from the late James Horner, one of his final pieces. It flows well with the rest of the film. Especially in the intense moments.
The performances are also pretty solid, particularly Banderas. I’m thinking it, so I must say it: some of the casting choices don’t make any sense. We have some great actors here, such as Juliette Binoche, Rodrigo Santoro (NOT Gael Garcia Bernal… my bad), Gabriel Byrne, Bob Gunton. Some of these choices make sense. But Binoche, Byrne, and Gunton as Chileans? No sirree Bob. And to think just earlier this year people griped about Emma Stone playing a Hawaiian (which is also quite ridiculous, might I add). Their performances are fine, but the casting doesn’t add up.
I didn’t dislike The 33, because it is an inspiring story, and it means well. However, it does feel like a bit of a missed opportunity. It couldn’t be a very easy story to tell. It tries to focus on too many characters, and only succeeds at capturing a few of them. The 7 seems more like a reasonable title. The filmmakers must’ve realized that they couldn’t illustrate every character, hence why they don’t. It’s acceptable, but simple.
The same can be said about the film. It’s acceptable, but simple. But compared to what it could be rather than what it should be, it sort of falls short. I am mildly recommending it, but it’s a very close call. That’s probably because you caught me in a somewhat good mood.