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Now showing in Hong Kong

Film review: The 33 – formulaic Antonio Banderas-led tale of trapped Chilean miners

Melodrama avoids controversy and barely scratches surface of story of 33 miners trapped underground for 69 days

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 January, 2016, 6:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 January, 2016, 6:00pm

An inspirational event that captured the world’s attention, the 2010 Copiapo mining accident in Chile – in which 33 miners were trapped underground for 69 days – seemed tailor-made for a stirring Hollywood adaptation. But arriving in the wake of more cinematically accomplished survival stories like The Martian, In the Heart of the Sea and The Revenant, the miners of The 33 seem to have had an easy time of it.

Antonio Banderas stars as “Super” Mario Sepulveda, who became the public face of the miners, and heads up a cast of ethnically diverse performers that includes Juliette Binoche, Rodrigo Santoro, Lou Diamond Philips and Gabriel Byrne, all adopting their best “Hollywood-Chilean” accents to portray the various parties involved above and below the surface.

READ: ‘Half naked and breathing methane’: Antonio Banderas on Chile mine disaster film

Directed by Mexican filmmaker Patricia Riggen (Girl in Progress), The 33 feels perpetually caught between championing this triumph of human spirit and technical innovation over the forces of nature, and thrilling its audiences with Irwin Allen-esque disaster movie spectacle. As a result it barely scratches the surface of the story, burying the more intriguing and controversial aspects under a landslide of melodramatic hokum.

Too often the film feels compromised and formulaic – perhaps the result of working so closely with the survivors and their families. It is also reluctant to point an accusatory finger at the mining company, despite evidence that cost-cutting contributed directly to the miners’ dilemma. Rather than expose any malfeasance, corruption or injustice, The 33 seems committed solely to being a film – and emerges in dire need of help.

The 33 opens on January 7