(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was for a san san, in which three words or ideas are repeated three times each in a eight-line rhyme scheme of a-b-c-a-b-d-c-d. Since san san is Chinese for “three three,” I thought the perfect film for this was last year’s The 33 about the Chilean miners.)
The sun was swapped for stone, above our heads and in our hearts.
With patience, we awaited news from those who thought us dead.
We lived within our hollow grave, refusing to be still.
How many lack the patience that a hollow grave imparts,
No choice but to bemoan in hope the stone above our heads?
Anticipating sky again, we found our patience heaven-sent
And looked beyond the stone above our heads, as doomed men will.
Arising from a hollow grave is not without its precedent.
MPAA rating: PG-13
I’m sure most recall the rollercoaster of emotions that accompanied news of the Chilean miners who were trapped by a cave-in for 69 days in the San Jose mine. The international rescue effort and the strong faith of the miners turned the 2010 mining accident into one of the most inspirational true-life stories in years, and as soon as the last miner reached the surface, I knew it was only a matter of time before a movie dramatized the incident.
Honestly, I thought it would be much sooner than five years, but here we have the based-on-a-true-story film for which we’ve been waiting. I expected it to be great, but I’m content that it’s good. The filmmakers succeed in presenting a comprehensive account of what happened before, during, and after the accident, and it’s hard to fault their efforts. The beginning introduces the most notable of the thirty-three miners: Mario Sepúlveda (Antonio Banderas), who acted as the leader of the buried miners; Luis Urzúa (Lou Diamond Phillips), the danger-conscious foreman; Álex (Mario Casas), the family man with a baby on the way; Darío, who is estranged from his sister (Juliette Binoche); Yonni (Oscar Nunez), whose extramarital affair comes to a head during the crisis; and numerous others who aren’t given enough screen time to make an impression. It’s easy to confuse the characters at first, but time and some earnest character moments help to distinguish the most important.
Above ground, the drilling plans are spearheaded by both professionals (James Brolin; Gabriel Byrne, who I never would have considered for a Hispanic role) and politicians (Bob Gunton, also pretending to be Latino; and Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro, known to me as the much-maligned Paulo on Lost). After the search effort turns into a rescue effort, the details of the operation are prudently depicted through real-life news reports.
I suppose the worst thing I can say about The 33 is that it feels inconsistent. The actual accident is spectacular, if a bit hard to see in the dark, but then the emotions and tensions of the subsequent waiting and anticipating come in fits and starts depending on which miners are on-screen. One potentially powerful final meal strikingly captures the men’s hopes and fears, but the tone oddly drifts between heavy and light.
Despite the inconsistencies, The 33 triumphs where it matters most, that climactic rescue that had people around the world wiping tears from their eyes. The ending will come as no surprise to those who know the story, but the film manages to give its audience further understanding of how the miners and their families felt and represents the solidarity both below and aboveground. It may not be the Oscar-worthy powerhouse I feel it could have been, but the pre-credits depiction of all thirty-three real-life miners ends the film on the highest note possible.
Best line: (one of the miners, answering why he doesn’t hate an outcast) “Hate is for children.”
Rank: List Runner-Up
© 2016 S. G. Liput
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