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the 33 20053“THE 33” My rating: B-

120 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

The rescue in 2010 of 33 Chilean miners — buried alive for 69 days after the collapse of a gold and copper mine — is a story guaranteed to nurture hope and raise the spirits.

In fact, you’d have to be a stone not to be moved by a tale this dramatic.

And “The 33” does a pretty decent job of laying out a complicated yarn and seasoning it

with dramatic moments as it twists and turns toward an uplifting conclusion.

But it’s far from a great movie. The four-person screenwriting team and director Patricia Riggen (“Under the Same Moon”) struggle to get their arms around so many characters, so many plot threads. The film has no central character, and its dramatic impact is diffused.

Nevertheless, it does the job because we know that as unlikely as it seems, it’s a true tale.

We are introduced to the working stiffs at the San Jose Mine at a weekend party. One of the guys is an Elvis impersonator. Another is a graybeard preparing for retirement.

There’s a young husband whose wife is expecting their first baby. A lothario who openly juggles both a spouse and a mistress.

Of course our eyes are drawn to Mario (Antonio Banderas), a husband and father who oozes charisma and leadership.

The work gang foreman, Don Lucho (Lou Diamond Phillips), is charged with ensuring the safety of his crews but keeps getting the runaround from superiors who don’t want to sink any more money into a 100-year-old mine that’s almost played out.

There is, of course, a new kid (Tenoch Huerta), a Bolivian who gets teased by his Chilean co-workers. (After they’re buried alive, the men grimly joke that he’ll be the first consumed, since “Bolivians taste like chicken.”)

And we shouldn’t forget the hopeless alcoholic (Juan Pablo Raba), whose older sister (Juliette Binoche) will become a thorn in the side of the greedy mining corporation.

The problem facing director Riggen is obvious. There are too many personalities here to really develop any of them. Many of these fellows are “types” rather than real people.

And things get doubly complicated because while the miners are trapped 2,300 feet  down in 100-degree heat with dwindling resources (mostly a few cans of tuna), back on the surface there’s another conflict brewing. (more…)

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