The 33 (Review)

Directed by Patricia Riggen, US, 2015

For once I saw a movie before it was generally released – at the Twin Cities Film Festival a couple of weekends ago.  I’ll do a catch-up review from the other movies I saw at the festival in a bit, but first this weekend’s “The 33.”

The 33 is the story of the 2010 San Jose Mining Disaster where thirty three miners were trapped underground for two and a half months.  As the details of this particular event fade, it is good to be reminded about what a harrowing ordeal it was.  We know they are rescued – it was world news after all – but what the movie remarkably demonstrates is how hard it was.

The lighting of the underground scenes is especially interesting.  It gives the audience enough sense of how dark it was down in the mine without making the film look sloppy or darkened out.  This is probably standard operating procedure in the movies effects-wise, but I thought it was particularly effective in this context.

The cast does a fine job with what is given to them, which are essentially a dozen or so supporting roles.  Juliette Binoche is particularly impressive as Maria Segovia, the sister of one of the miners who holds the Chilean government to account.  Well, specifically she holds mining commissioner André Sougarret (Gabrielle Byrne) to account.

The 33 is a worthwhile film, but unfortunately it’s far from perfect.  The middle of the film drags a bit.  The first half, where the miners are trapped with little hope of rescue, has genuine suspense and tension.  After they are discovered to be alive, the story about figuring out how to get them out just isn’t as compelling.  Additionally, while the actors do a fine job, the characters are bit shallow.

Overall, The 33 is a fine way to spend an afternoon or evening at the movies.  It might even net an Oscar nomination or two considering the subject matter.

You might like The 33 if: You enjoy well-acted, if somewhat routine, disaster/rescue movies.

You might not like the 33 if: You know everything there is to know about the 2010 Chilean Mining Disaster.

(c) 2015 D.G. McCabe