The 33 Blu-ray Review

For over two months the world was captivated by 33 trapped miners in a Chilean mine. This was a story filled with hope and faith. The best part about it was that it had a happy ending with all of the miners being rescued. THE 33 tries to capture the collapse and the rescue operations that came with it. It does a somewhat solid job of it.

A sobering note opens the movie. It says that 12,000 miners die in accidents every year around the world. So this basically tells the audience that this is not a safe job and these men risk their life every day doing it.

We see the miners at play at first. They are playing soccer, having a meal, enjoying some music and discussing what lies ahead. There is Mario Sepulveda (Antonio Banderas), a family man with a wife and a daughter. He asks the foreman Luis (Lou Diamond Phillips) if he can work on his day off to get more money. We also have Alex (Mario Casas), whose wife is expecting their first child.  Then there’s Elvis (Jacob Vargas) who you guessed it likes to perform Elvis songs at parties and get togethers. You also have Yonni (Oscar Nunez) who is juggling two women. Dario (Juan Pablo Raba) is a drill operator who is estranged from his sister Maria (Juliette Binoche). When these men enter the mine they are joined by a Bolivian named Carlos Mamani (Tenoch Huerta). He is a man who is subject to much ridicule from the other guys and doesn’t hold their respect.

Antonio Banderas in The 33

The San Jose Mine is located in the Atacama Desert in Chile. It had been operational since 1889. Copper and gold is extracted from this mine generating millions of dollars every year. Luis is in charge of the men and their safety. He is concerned that an accident is about to happen. He is brushed off by the manager Carlos Castillo (Mario Zaragoza). Castillo coldly informs him that his job isn’t the men, but to get the gold out. He also wants to up the production to 250 tons a day. August 5, 2010 would be a fateful day that will change everyone’s lives involved.

Director Patricia Riggen isn’t too concerned with the background of the miners. Sure we get snippets here and there about them. She is laser focused on the collapse and the aftermath of that. The collapse happens soon after we see the miners go into the mine. It takes an hour to get to where they are going. They were 1700 feet below ground in over 90 degrees heat when the disaster hit. Riggen stages the mayhem well. You feel you are down there about to be trapped. It’s claustrophobic and unsettling to say the least. It is remarkable that no one died during this event.

The 33

The miners scramble to The Refuge. This is place where they are supposed to go in an emergency. It is 2300 feet below the ground. We find out that the rock covering them is the size of two Empire State Buildings. That is one large boulder that will be hard to drill through.

Mario and Luis take control and try to settle everyone down. The group soon learns that the escape ladders are missing and communication is nonexistent. They also learn that there is little food and water left. So they have to ration off food.

Up above the mine company is washing their hands on the matter. They consider the miners dead or soon to be dead. Minister of Mining Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro) is asked by President Sebastian Pinera (Bob Gunton) to oversee the matter and get involved. Laurence tells the families of the miners that the government will do everything in its power to get them out. He has an unpleasant exchange with Maria after he says that they won’t do anything after earlier attempts failed.

Antonio Banderas in The 33

The film goes into the attempts to get them out. There are some failures along the way. Meanwhile the miners are just trying to survive. Much of this is standard stuff. There is not a lot of wow factor here. You do get drawn into the story, but you are held at arms length because you don’t know too much about the miners to be deeply invested in them.

What really works is the score by the late James Horner. He died shortly after this production. He sets the right mood with mournful ambience when needed and joyful exuberance when there’s much needed hope. The movie world lost a great composer when he died.

THE 33 is a solid unremarkable film that could have been better with more background on the miners. That would have really brought it home. Still you will be moved by the heartwarming conclusion.


Video: The video is solid. There is nice contrast between the darkness of the mine and the sheer brightness of the desert.

Audio: I did have some difficulties with the sounds. It may be because of the locations that were used.

The Mine Collapses (3:54): This is a feature about the collapse. You hear the director, production designer and visual effects supervisor going over how they achieved this and how to make it realistic. Some of the actors weigh in on this as well.

The 33: The World Was Watching (3:05): This is really a nothing feature about how the world responded to the collapse. You don’t really get much information here.

Theatrical Trailer



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