Movie review: The 33

Run Time: 127 min

Genre: Drama

Grade: 3/5

The true story of the 33 miners who were trapped in a collapsed Chilean mine in 2010 was an incident that united people throughout the world - both in hope and in awe of the indefatigability of the human spirit. To all studio executives and Hollywood types, the coverage obviously indicated the potential success of a film adaptation of this incredible story.

Director Patricia Riggen's film adaptation of the event starts promisingly, as the miners' initial ordeal (having little food and supplies) is convincingly and chillingly portrayed. A sequence that captures the collapse of the mine is especially riveting.

Chief among the miners is Mario Sepulveda (Antonio Banderas), who becomes their leader through the sheer force of his optimism and belief that they are going to be rescued. However, after Chilean officials manage to dig a hole that allows for essential items to be transported through, his role diminishes as other miners begin to adjust to the new normal.

Much like Danny Boyle's empathetic 127 Hours and Alfonso Cuaron's visceral Gravity, The 33 also wisely underplays all the emotional scenes between the miners, resulting in genuinely affecting moments. 

However, as the screenplay takes an episodic approach to the tale - oscillating between the perspective of the trapped miners, and their loved ones who are frustrated that the officials, headed by Chilean Minister of Mining Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro), are unable to speed up the rescue process - the film starts to lose momentum whenever it covers all that is going above ground.

Indeed, it constantly swivels from being interesting to repetitive whenever it focuses on the battles being waged above ground between the miners' loved ones and Golborne's team.

This mainly involves Maria Segovia (an underutilised Juliette Binoche), sister of a trapped miner, who goes through the requisite character beats, inciting other family members to spur Golborne into action.

As much as The 33 wants to be the gritty, deeply emotional drama worthy of the event it is based on, its broad, melodramatic strokes result in a repetitive tale that wastes most of the initial momentum it gains in its first half.

The 33 opens on Nov 19.