The 33, film review: ‘Full of heroic miscasting’

14:58 03 February 2016

The 33. Picture: Warner Bros. Pictures

The 33. Picture: Warner Bros. Pictures

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This retelling of the 2010 Chilean mining disaster can only engage in very basic disaster movie terms, laments Michael Joyce.

Director: Patricia Riggen 
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, Lou Diamond Phillips, James Brolin and Gabriel Byrne 
Film Length: 127 mins

This Hollywood telling of the true story of the 33 Chilean miners who were stuck underground for 69 days before being rescued goes digging for drama but largely misses. It can clearly see where it is – the machinations of the government wondering if the good PR of mounting a rescue effort is worth risking millions of dollars on; the desperate family members gathered at the surface waiting for news; the claustrophobic intensity of being stuck underground with little food and water and even less of a chance of being rescued – but the film just can’t find a way to really work that seam.

Riggen can only engage with the story in very basic disaster movie terms. And then not very well: the initial collapse is underwhelming. It’s called The 33 but it’s all about the one: Banderas is the star and his miner, Super Mario, is the hero and the leader underground. We get to know a few of the others but really they are only there to bounce off the star.

At least he can do the accent. The story is told in English but with everybody doing the accent which leads to some heroic miscasting. There’s Binoche wandering around in a shawl, Bob Gunton (who was a White House Chief of Staff in 24) playing the Chilean president and Byrne as the head of the rescue team. None of them look or sound South American. Byrne’s character is like a plumber who turns up, takes one look at your pipes and shakes his head. Except that he doesn’t say, “phew, cost ya”; he says “That’s not a rock, it’s the heart of the mountain: it finally broke.”

Rating: 2/5

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