Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The 33 [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (2 Stars) (3 Stars)  AVClub (C) Fr. Dennis (4+ Stars)

IMDb listing (I. Passalacqua) review* (H. Bilbao) review* (J. Parra) review* (W. Venagas) review* (L.A. Ramiro-Reyes) review* review* coverage* coverage*

CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (B. Mercer) review 

The 33 [2015] (directed by Patricia Riggen, screenplay by Mikko Alanne, Craig Borten and Michael Thomas, screenstory by José Rivera, based on the book [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Héctor Tobar [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) tells the story of the 2010 mining accident at the San José Mine out in the Altacama Desert near Copiapó, Chile.

On Aug 5, 2010, the 120 year old mine, perhaps weakened by a earthquake in the region some months back, suffered a major collapse with a rock twice the size of the Empire State Building crashing through its center trapping 33 miners in "a safety room" 2300 ft below the surface but now with communications severed and no way out.

What to do?   Well the clearly previously not particularly "safety concerned" (only ONE exit out of the mine???) / financially strapped company running the mine had no serious resources for mounting a serious rescue attempt.  It would have probably settled for feeling TERRIBLY EMBARRASSED and POSSIBLY ASHAMED over the loss of the miners, but ... "mining's a dangerous occupation, right?"

What happened IMHO recalls Jesus' saying about our responsibility to "the least among us" in  Matthew 25 "when did we see you ...?" That is, the young Chilean Mining Minister Lawrence Golborne (played in the film by Rodrigo Santoro) decided to go the mine a few days after the accident.  Then _having seen_ the families, notably María Segovia (played in the film by Juliette Binoche) one of the miners' wives, he _simply couldn't bring himself_ to just "walk away" and let their loved ones die.  He calls the Chilean President Piñera (played in the film by Bob Gunton) who perhaps with initial reluctance (perhaps _nothing_ really could be done) _decides to risk_ a good portion of his political capital to make it A CHILEAN NATIONAL PRIORITY to get to the miners.

President Piñera then recruits André Sougarret (played in the film by Gabriel Byrne) Chile's foremost drilling expert and gives him essentially carte blanche, ANYTHING HE NEEDS, to reach the miners, who, despite everything now beginning to happen above, _could have been dead_ anyway.   Soon there were nine drills boring down from the surface toward the "safety room" where the hope was that the miners, if they were still alive, would have congregated.  It took 16 days, from the mine's initial collapse for a drill to reach said room ... and ... the rest of the movie follows.

Obviously, since the story was an international phenomenon when it happened, it's not too much of a SPOILER to note that the 33 did, in fact, survive.  HOW, I'd rather not get into here (go see the movie...).  But it is certainly a remarkable story of both ENDURANCE and COOPERATION.  Those 33 MINERS HAD TO SHARE RATIONS THAT ASSUMED A RESCUE IN 3 DAYS, and they were down in that mine for 16 days before anybody knew that they were even still alive.  Even afterwards it still took much longer to get them out (though supplies could start to be sent down to them).       

Of course, among those 33 there were plenty of stories.   One of the miners had been about to retire.  In fact, the film begins a few days before the mining disaster at this miner's retirement party.  At the other end of the experience spectrum is a recently hired "Bolivian" whose initially picked-on (mostly out of jest) because, well, he's ... Bolivian (working in "more developed", "whiter...." Chile).  There was another miner who prior to finding himself trapped underground in the mine had been juggling a double-life between his wife and a mistress (and with him becoming an object of international attention had to start to come to grips with the reality that now truly "THE WHOLE WORLD" knew of his rather embarrassing "story" ...).  There was the charismatic leader of the group, "super" Mario Sepúlveda (played by Antonio Banderas) who did hold the "33 together" during those 16 days when honestly none of them could know (but everybody still hoped) that first a rescue was going to be mounted and then reach them.  Finally there are other colorful goofballs among the miners including one who, yes, was something of a Chilean "Elvis impersonator" ;-).

Some of the (North American) reviewers above complained that the cast of characters, was well, "too big."  BUT THEN THERE WERE THIRTY THREE MINERS in this story (plus their families above ground, and then various important figures in the rescue operation).  So, clearly ... this was not a "Lone Ranger" kind of tale ...

And yet it was a good one ... and, in fact, a celebration of the reality that everyone of those 33 who were saved (and their loved ones) had their stories too and not just "the important people."

So great job folks!  Great job!

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser.

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