Chile’s 2010 mining disaster – and the thrilling rescue of all 33 men trapped underground –played out on a globally televised stage in front of an estimated one billion viewers. Far be it for any movie to try to duplicate those numbers (much less a suspenseful climax), but Patricia Riggen’s dumbed-down dramatisation does a particularly awkward job of it, favouring several miners with TV-ready tics (the angry guy, the Elvis fanatic, etc) and ladling on late composer James Horner’s most jaunty and aggressive score.
Having the cast speak English is understandable (though still a mistake), but worse is the film’s naked grab for star heat with its central trio of ridiculous performances. Antonio Banderas brings squinty-eyed heroism to the role of 'Super Mario' Sepúlveda, the trapped miner who becomes the group's de facto leader, yet he’s on more solid ground than Juliette Binoche as a feisty Chilean protestor (yep) or Gabriel Byrne as a brilliant Chilean engineer (yep). If we could unearth these guys from their living tomb, how hard is it to find non-white actors to play real people?
'The 33' makes shameless lunges at religious imagery via ghostly auras and this-is-my-flesh apportioning of daily rations. It feels tacky, and only late in the game does Riggen find the script’s most interesting idea, about unwanted celebrity. Miner story, major fail.