Saturday 7 July 2018

The 33

The true story of 33 miners trapped 2000 feet underground for 69 days in a Chilean mine while the experts and authorities worked out how to rescue them. You probably know the outcome as it happened in 2010 and half the world watched, in what was turned into a live, emotional media circus.

The main parts are played by the excellent Antonio Banderas as the unofficial leader of the trapped men, Rodrigo Santoro as the government Minister of Mining - fresh-faced, idealistic and newly in post, Juliette Binoche similarly portraying the unofficial leader of the waiting families and Gabriel Byrne as the expert engineer/help brought in to sort out the technicalities.

They decided not to use subtitles and native-speaking actors but rather voice-coach to vocalise with the kind of accent English-speaking audiences might expect to hear from someone from South America speaking English. I'm not really sure if this approach works for me, but it's a difficult decision often made in cinema in order to balance authentication, target audience's tolerance and attracting top acting talent. Anyway, this was not Oscar territory for anyone, but they all embraced their roles well.

Patricia Riggen was charged with direction and did so well enough, presenting the anxiety, claustrophobia and emotion on all sides with good balance. The photography was executed well in tight, dark scenes and certainly taught me some things about the beautiful Chilean landscape. There was a small amount of 'handheld' camera shot work, which is a little annoying, but not too much.

What’s not to like? Well, I can’t say that it was gripping and taut, like a good thriller might be, but then maybe that’s not what is being attempted here. It is, after all, a true story and facts are facts. It certainly engages emotionally with the audience and develops sympathetic reaction as it goes along. It doesn’t try to hide some of the undesirable behaviours that some of the miners display, though I did read somewhere that there was some kind of pact made between the men to remain tight-lipped about some aspects of their stress-induced behaviours early-on.

If we’re being critical, it sometimes became slow, but again, this could well be a technique employed with purpose to further emphasise what a long boring time it was leading up to the eventual outcome.

I enjoyed watching this and would recommend a viewing. It’s not the best film you’re likely to see at the moment, but certainly worth an outing with a cup of char and a wad, one evening. As I review it’s available as a part of a NowTV subscription but probably elsewhere too.

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