On October 13, 2010 at 12:11 a.m., Florencio Antonio Avalos Silvas was the first of the 33 Chilean miners to be rescued from what had seemed to be a certain death. He and 32 of his co-workers had been trapped inside the 100-year-old gold and copper mine since August 5, 2010. Just shy of a full day later, the 33rd miner was rescued with news crews covering the live event. But The 33 film is not so much about the rescue, but about the journey that took place on there way out of there. For 69 days, these men learned how to support, care for and pray for each other and when the time came for their rescue, they gave all the credit to God.
The 33 film is not a faith-based film in the traditional sense. Faith has a large part to do with the story, but some audiences will be disappointed that the power of prayer doesn’t play a larger role in the actual film. There is some swearing (though not as much as you would think) and a few scenes that will surprise you and that could have been left out of the entirely. However, the film does feature some powerful scenes of prayer and faith and because they are shown sparingly, makes the situation seem that much more realistic.
Moviegoers get to see what life was like for those 33 men buried alive 200 stories beneath the earth. These miners are not perfect people. They have flaws like everyone else and this film exposes some of their shortcomings. Some felt that they deserved to die, others wanted to live. Some wanted to hoard food instead of sharing with the others while a couple went to extreme lengths to portion the food and drink so that no one would starve.
Director Patricia Riggen does a skilled job in making sure that no man is shown as a complete saint or sinner. At the same time, it is hard to deny that these men would not have made it out alive if not for the care of some of their leaders.
The 33 was filmed nearby the actual location with the cooperation of the miners and their families and shares what was really happening above and below ground. The heroes underground include Mario Sepulveda (Antonio Banderas) and Don Lucho Lou Diamond Phillips), two men who were able to keep their cool and keep the others as sane as possible. Above ground, Maria Segovia (Juliette Binoche) challenged the authorities to not just give the song and dance saying all the “correct” things that are said at such an occasion. It is partially her perseverance that helped Laurence Golbourne (Rodrigo Santoro) really see the gravity of the situation and to not give up until every last man made it out alive. James Brolin’s character, Jeff Hart, also played an important role to the story, but blink and you’ll miss him on screen. Just like the rest of the story, no one person is seen as THE hero to the story which is nice to see. Even though the film has its stars, the production itself is an ensemble piece.
The film makes it clear over and over again that these should not have survived and yet, they did. Like other films like Titanic, we already know how this story ends, but this time the story has a happy ending. This does takes a little of the tension out of the story, but it is a story that is told well so there is plenty more to experience.