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The 33 largely by the numbers 

Rating: **1/2

THE 33
**1/2 (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Patricia Riggen
STARS Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro

Lou Diamond Phillips and Antonio Banderas in The 33 (Photo: Warner Bros.)
  • Lou Diamond Phillips and Antonio Banderas in The 33 (Photo: Warner Bros.)

While it's been said that truth is stranger than fiction, it can also be more exciting. The Chilean mining accident that occurred in 2010, the one that found 33 men trapped underground for an unimaginable 69 days, was the sort of story that held the world captive, with its happy ending ultimately providing a global sigh of relief. The details of that event are captured in dutiful manner in The 33, a well-executed dramatization that never quite punches across the lightning in the bottle.

Its strongest selling point is Antonio Banderas, who's excellent as the trapped team's designated leader, Mario Sepúlveda. The actor is as committed to his character as his character is committed to the safety of the other men, and while the four scripters (working from Hector Tobar's acclaimed book Deep Down Dark) unnecessarily muddy the character dynamics, presumably for the sake of additional drama (a late-inning skirmish between Mario and the rest makes absolutely no sense as presented in this context), Banderas never wavers in his understanding of this man.

Mario is one of the few miners given any semblance of individuality — differentiating all 33 would be a monumental undertaking for any picture, but the CliffsNotes version presented here leaves a sense of incompleteness. And with so many cutaways to those on the surface, director Patricia Riggen never manages to establish the sort of claustrophobic dread that a picture like this demands. Still, as an exercise in the triumph of the human spirit, it largely gets the job done. And just as everyone watched the real-life drama unfold on their television sets, I expect The 33 will feel more at home when viewed on Blu-ray or DVD a few months down the road.

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