Directed by Patricia Riggen, The 33 is a powerful drama based on the real-life mining accident in Chile in 2010, where 33 miners were trapped 2,300 feet underground for 69 days. The incredible circumstances of the real-life events make for a highly suspenseful and emotional film. (JEP: 4/5)
Review by Contributing Editor Jessica E. Perry
I remember watching news footage of this incredible event when I was 18, and those memories stayed with me five years later as I watched The 33 in theaters. Director Patricia Riggen delivers an emotional feature about the 2010 Copiapó mining accident. Based on the book Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar and adapted for the screen by Mikko Alanne, Craig Borten, Michael Thomas and Jose Rivera, The 33 is a well-paced, suspenseful film based on incredible real-life events.
“Mario Sepúlveda” (Antonio Banderas) is a loving father to his daughter and a supportive husband to his wife “Katty (Kate del Castillo). The day of the accident was Mario’s day off, but he asked his boss “Don Lucho” (Lou Diamond Phillips) if he could take the extra day because he needed the money for his family.
Álex Vega (Mario Casas) has a pregnant wife, “Jessica” (Cote de Pablo). Everyone urges him to take other work and quit his job in the mine so he will be there for his child. But he can’t justify leaving the mine to make only $50 a week elsewhere.
It’s “Carlos Mamani” (Tenoch Huerta)—aka “The Bolivian’s”—first day on the job. Mario takes him under his wing and assures him everything will be all right. Little did they know that day would change their lives forever.
Before the men were dispatched into the mine that morning, Don Lucho found a piece of a broken mirror on the third level, the signal they use to show them when the earth has shifted inside the mine. He warns his superior, but goes unheard, as the owner of the mine is concerned only with bringing in their quota of gold each day. So 33 men go into the mine that morning, just like any other…
The men began their day in the mine as usual, until the ground begins to shake and the earth collapses around them, a huge rock with twice the mass of the Empire State Building, blocking their only exit. Miraculously, all 33 men survive the initial collapse.
The 33 do not know if, or when, anyone will come to rescue them. But even as some men begin to lose hope, Mario never does. He easily steps into role as leader, rationing the food and talking the men down when it all becomes too much.
Outside the mine, “Laurence Golborne” (Rodrigo Santoro), a government official, is sent to assess the situation at the Copiapó mine. When he arrives, family members rally outside the gate demanding information. “María Segovia” (Juliette Binoche), the sister of one of the trapped miners, makes Golborne promise that he will do everything he can to save the miners. And even after being told no a thousand times from others around him, Golborne keeps his promise.
After seventeen days, they are able to successfully drill into the refuge where the 33 are located. The men survived underground for seventeen days with only three days of food and water. Everyone outside the mine expected no survivors, but when they pull the drill back up there is a note attached to the drill bit declaring: "We are well in the shelter, the 33 of us." With the knowledge that all 33 men are miraculously still alive, Golborne must now work with field experts to find a way to rescue the 33 men from the earth.
The 33 is a story you know. But artfully told, and wonderfully acted, the film keeps you on the edge of your seat wishing for the men’s safety even though you know the final outcome. Creating that suspense is a testament to Patricia Riggen’s directing. Antonio Banderas and Juliette Binoche deliver standout performances among an already extremely strong and dynamic cast.
Middle Photo: Mario and his peers celebrating his rescue.
Bottom Photo: The 33 while trapped inside the mine.
Photo Credits: Beatrice Aguirre
The film shares two perspectives: that of the miners, and that of their families—primarily their wives, sisters, and daughters. These women actively fight for the rescue of loved ones in the mine, and all stay together outside the gates of the mine for the full 69 days it takes for the rescue to be completed.