Being the inevitable filmic retelling of the 2010 Chilean mining disaster, this is a project which has been a long time coming. Yet despite the five year gap between the real event and the film’s release, it still manages to seem like a rushed hatchet job.
Most apparent is how lazy the writing is. It takes around ten minutes before the men are in the mine, and a further five minutes for the central cave-in to take place. Hardly enough time for the audience to have any sort of emotional investment in the characters, and as a result the disaster doesn’t have the desired dramatic effect.
A vague attempt is made at backstory: It is half-hinted that one character desperately needs money, and it is briefly mentioned that another’s wife is expecting a baby. Sadly these backstories are immediately dropped, thereby rendering all subsequent tension meaningless once the rocks do begin to fall. Assuming the viewer hasn’t looked up a biography beforehand, it is hard to become even vaguely invested in the characters which you know little to nothing about.
Furthermore, the dialogue is obscenely clunky and extremely clichéd. The brief back and forth between the concerned foreman and heartless mine owner is so heavy handed it is almost laughable and the relationship between Juliette Binoche’s fiery Camp Hope ring leader and the government suit in charge of keeping the peace not only feels tacked on but is entirely forgotten about midway through the film.
Admittedly, once the drills are called in and the rescue effort begins proper the film does start to improve but, bearing in mind that this is around an hour and a quarter into the film, too much time has elapsed for the viewer to become invested in the action. The essential problem with The 33 is that everything could have been done in a far more subtle fashion; as such it’s rather amazing that such a genuinely tense and exciting event could be rendered as artificial as it is here.
Image: Goblerno de Chile; Flickr.com