Patricia Riggen, in her third feature-length directorial effort, ventures outside of her comfort zone to take on thirty-three miners in the highly emotional true-story flick The 33.
Tackling the true story surrounding the thirty-three miners who were trapped for over two months below hundreds of feet of rock, Riggen works to create something uplifting, inspirational and heartwarming. Utilizing the story's sensitive side, she tries to steer clear of the violence, focusing instead on the love and heartache that was ever present as a result of the 2010 disaster.
But somewhere in the process the story itself is given the Hollywood treatment, turning the true account into a run of clichés and over-the-top stereotypes, deterring from the overall message and offering up nothing more than a glamorized disaster popcorn flick.
Based on the novel by Hector Tobar, The 33 works hard to mesh the events that took place both above and below ground after the mountain caved in. And while the back and forth was surprisingly fluid, it isn't able to overcome the film's overly simplistic and painfully straight forward story.
Antonio Banderas and James Brolin are on top of their game, doing what they can to deliver the riveting story on which the film is based; however, they are unable to overcome abysmal dialogue and underdeveloped characters to give the film the pulse necessary to engage.
At the beginning, the flawed scene is set as we find ourselves at a party to celebrate the upcoming retirement of one of the miners. Families are enjoying a feast as they mingle, allowing us a snapshot of the players that will pull at our heartstrings over the next two hours. And while I am not entirely sure as to the situations of the real miners"¦I highly doubt that they would check all the necessary boxes that Riggen and company exploit for the sake of simplifying the path to the human heart.
I did find the government's involvement in the rescue to be intriguing, and Juliette Binoche helps to anchor the events taking place outside of the cold, dark mountain. Her relationship with her brother is one of the most tender, authentic ties within the entire film. And while there are several links between those above and below ground, you find yourself anxious for good news, for her sake.
The film does paint a broader picture on just how rare a rescue of this magnitude is and that none of the men should have ever survived. And while Riggen fully encompasses the high emotions that exist with the men's families who await word, she misses the mark in her portrait of the events within the mountain. Only briefly touching on the high tensions and frustrations that come with little water, even less food, and a confined space, she fails to truly magnify the hellish conditions and struggles these men went through on a day-to-day basis.
Ultimately, while The 33 would have worked better as a small, character-driven film, it will likely have more financial success in its current state. It is a far cry from a good film, but throwing accuracy to the wind, it is a satisfying piece of Hollywood laced entertainment. My main issue"¦it could have been so much more.