It feels like, lately, people of Hispanic decent are the new focus of cinema when it comes to “inspirational” film. African-Americans were the go-to but it appears that Hollywood has decided to branch out a bit. Recently films like or follow Hispanic teens that are hoping to achieve more either athletically or academically. And, for the most part, I have nothing against racially centered films, except for the fact that they tend to be a formulaic at times. The 33, starring Antonio Banderez, is no exception and often suffers from the same pitfalls as these other movies. However, what really sets the film apart is its powerful performances the come from its core cast of main characters.
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Disaster strikes on Aug. 5, 2010, as a copper and gold mine collapses in Chile, trapping 33 men underground. With more than 2,000 feet of rock in their way, members of a rescue team work tirelessly for 69 days to save the seemingly doomed crew. Beneath the rubble, the miners begin an epic quest to survive, contending with suffocating heat and the need for food and water. With family, friends and the rest of the world watching, it becomes a race against time and a true test of the human spirit.
Now, other than the mine itself, there are a few moving pieces in this film. First you have the miners themselves that have their own problems to deal with, then the government and mining company, followed by the families of the miners as well as the media coverage. The movie executes most of these elements well– but I cannot help but think that it would have been a stronger cinematic experience if they had chosen to focus on one particular element more than the others. However the movie shows all three of these elements almost equally throughout the movie which both lengthens its runtime as well as makes the movie feel unfocused at times. For example, one of the miners has a love triangle with a couple of woman who are awaiting his rescue on the surface. The movie pokes fun at this the entire film– with his wife getting his mistress thrown out of the camp several times because “she isn’t family”– but the whole thing is taken as a joke which sort of takes away from the plight of the miners. I don’t mind a bit of comedy, when it is done right, but even if the guy in real life had a mistress, perhaps it would have been best to leave that out of the movie? it is distracting at best.
There is also one character at the beginning of the movie that had to grow on me quite simply because I didn’t like her character at first. Maria Segova (Juliette Binoche) is the sister of one of the buried miners and, from the get go, she stands as the voice of distrust and anger for the families. Which is fine if you wrote the government officials in such a way that they are at first heartless and then change as the movie goes on. Instead what we get is the Minister of Mining, Laurence (Rodrigo Santoro), who is the first official to argue with the prime minister on the miners behalf– stating that they had a moral obligation to help those men and their families. He even goes down there to assess and oversee their rescues. When he does get down there and is told the danger rescuing the men and the near fatal conclusion of a previous rescue attempt, he announces that for the time being, rescue attempts would be suspended until a safer plan is put in place. Before he can even finish that sentence, Segova sprints up and slaps him in the face, which causes a near riot out of the families. I get it, her brother is down there dying and, in her point of view, the government isn’t doing enough to help… but has a viewer–knowing how noble Laurence, you find yourself disliking her character for slapping him in the first place. And what follows isn’t much better either as the whole movie it feels as if Laurence has a need or desire to prove himself to Segova.
There is also a middle part of this film that is rather odd… And it has to do with the length of time that they are down there versus the danger. For about half of the movie, the miners are nearly starving to death but– eventually– they are able to drill down to their safe-haven and are able to deliver them food, clothing and other amenities. It will take much more time to drill a big enough hole to actually get them out. But after half of the movie of them going through a lot to stay alive, suddenly they are basically just camping out in their haven. They have plenty of food, water, clothing and much more. There seem to start having vanity amenities like iPods, jewelry and more. It marks an odd turning point of the film where I feel the powerful performances seen previously in the film were undermined.
But again, the powerful performances are why you see this movie in the first place and there is plenty of it to be found in this film. Antonio Banderez in particular does a fantastic job as the miner’s de facto leader. But I wouldn’t say he outshines any of the other characters in this movie either who all turn in great performances. Santoro and Lou Daimond Phillips might even have stolen a few moments in this movie as both characters have some great scenes where they battle with their own role in respect to the safety of the miners. Lou was the sort of Mine foreman who was in charge of safety. He knew of the danger of the mine and was even aware of some structural damage recently. Additionally he even knew that the safety precautions had been overlooks. So in many respects he thinks that their current situation is his fault regardless of how little his men blame him. Santoro also struggles with his role as Minister of Mining because, from his perspective, saving those men in the mine is a near impossible task that has never been done, but he feels morally obligated to do everything in his power to succeed even when everyone around him says that he will fail. Both of these characters are extremely interesting and I might have loved to see the movie told only from their perspectives.
While the film was good, it is no Oscar-worthy film by any stretch of the imagination and, quite honestly, after seeing the film in theaters I am fairly confident that most people would be satisfied with seeing this movie on their couches at home. The whole movie feels a bit like a made for tv movie, and that isn’t entirely a bad thing. I am just saying that, other than to support the company that produced this film, there is no real reason to see the movie in theaters.
You also may have noticed that I have altered the way I do ratings. In the past I would have the five categories in the post itself and I would discuss what the movie did well or did poorly and rate the film within that category accordingly. I also weighted the different categories by my own perceived importance of them. For example, ad-campaign was only weighted for a total of ten points while storytelling had a total possible points value of 30. I am not only ranking them via percentages… so each category has a total of 100 percentage points and are weighted equally. Additionally I will no longer be paraphrasing why I scored a movie a certain way as I think that would be pretty evident by the review article itself.
But I am curious as to what my audience thinks about this change– do you like it or hate it? Feel free to let me know in the comments!