The 33, film review: More thoughtful than the average disaster movie

(12A) Patricia Riggen, 127 mins. Starring: Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, Gabriel Byrne, Lou Diamond Phillips

 

Riggen's account of the 2010 Chilean mining accident that left 33 men stuck beneath ground is more thoughtful than the average disaster movie. There is a lyricism here and even one or two surrealistic interludes as the miners dream of food. One problem is the film's mish-mash of accents – the strange way some characters (for example, Gabriel Byrne as the engineer trying to get the men out) speak English in a Spanish accent while others suddenly start speaking Spanish. Another is that most viewers will know the outcome. The reason the film has been made is that the plight of the miners became a global news story. The religious symbolism also sometimes grates.

On the positive side, there are some finely judged performances, from those both above and below ground. Banderas is impressive as the de facto leader of the stranded men, fiery but pragmatic as he measures out their meagre rations of a few flakes of tinned tuna and tiny cups of milk.

Rodrigo Santoro also registers strongly as the mining minister, desperate at first to avoid a public relations catastrophe that might cost his party the election but for whom rescuing the trapped men becomes a quest.

What the film lacks is the intensity of focus and bitter humour found in Billy Wilder's 1951 classic Ace in the Hole, which made the point that lots of men stuck in a mine doesn't stick with you, but: "One man's different. You want to know all about him. That's human interest."

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