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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The 33 (Blu-ray)
The 33 (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. // PG-13 // February 16, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $35.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted February 12, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

By now, most everyone across the world is familiar with the story of the 33 Chilean miners, who were trapped 200 stories below the earth in the 2010 collapse of the San Jose mine. The odds against their survival against a large rock the size of TWO Empire State buildings were slim even for a week, to say nothing of the more than two months the group spent in darkness and 90 degree heat.

Written by Craig Borten (Dallas Buyers Club) and Mikko Alanne (5 Days of War) and directed by Patricia Riggin (Under the Same Moon), we see the day before the collapse with the miners hanging out and being friendly, to the last one being rescued. Don Lucho (Lou Diamond Phillips, La Bamba) is the leader amongst the miners, but some of the minors include Mario Sepulveda (Antonio Banderas, The Skin I Live In) and Dario (Juan Pablo Raba, Narcos). Each day, the minors' meal consist of trace amounts of water and canned tuna, as they wonder who will come to rescue them.

On the surface, Dario's sister Maria (Juliette Binoche, Godzilla) is a de facto leader of the families, who wants the drilling down to rescue the miners to continue until they're found. The person who bears the brunt of her anger is a mine company executive named Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro, Focus). Along with the government's lead driller Andre Sougarret (Gabriel Byrne, Miller's Crossing), they try to get to the 33 for signs of life and hope before it's too late.

So let's talk about the most obvious problem that plagues The 33, one that I thought we had passed a couple of decades ago with Alive, which is the proclivity of a Hollywood studio to use Anglo actors for a story where Anglos aren't necessary. Why, on heaven or Earth, are Gabriel Byrne and Juliette Binoche in a film about Chilean miners? More specifically, why is Bob Gunton, the warden in The Shawshank Redemption, playing the Chilean President? I get the desire of the cast to want to do a film like this, but doesn't this just feel a bit out of touch? That they are all here, attempting to do Spanish inflections, is a distraction from the story of the miners themselves.

A lesser obvious yet more consequential problem in the film is that the storytelling is haphazard and incomplete. The 33 splits its time on the surface and in the mine and handles neither general emotions convincingly, save for a moment when the miners are having their last food and their visions of a last supper are funny and somewhat touching. But the film splits two stories above and below ground, and the time in the mine is spent on the group, and there are others that I haven't named who are included but are ultimately miscast or misused. There are never prolonged moments where you emphasize with the miners because you're torn between the quest to get to them, so it's almost a thriller of sorts. And when all else fails, everyone gets the proverbial one last shot at success and would you know it? They're saved!

All of this may sound cynical, and it might be, but the filmmakers take the story of 33 Chilean miners stranded in a mine for 69 days, a story that could have told itself and been good, and got in their own way, crimping the story with poor casting decisions and storytelling. It's not that The 33 was bad, more that it had only one cinematic job to do, and it couldn't even get that right.

The Blu-ray:
The Video:

Warner presents The 33 with an AVC encode in high definition and the results are generally good. It handles the darkness of the caves solidly with little in the way of distracting crush or pixilation. Image detail can be gleaned on tighter moments on Banderas' face and some of the others, while on the outside, the sun causes the viewer to reflexively squint while pointing out individual grains of sand or clothing on the characters. It's not as deep in the black levels as you'd expect but it's a fine transfer nonetheless.

The Sound:

DTS HD-MA 5.1 lossless surround for the film, which does a lot of work, as one would expect with a titanic cave collapse. Rocks fall in every direction and place you in the middle of the environment with a convincing immersion layer. When things are being drilled, the sound effects the miners hear are clear and effective, and the subwoofer steps up to the task when it's called upon. Hushed dialogue in the mind sounds clear and consistent to boot, and the soundtrack packs a wallop..

Extras:

"The Mine Collapse" (3:54) shows us the intent and approach to shooting the scene in the film, be it from the cast perspective to crew and visual effects teams. "The World was Watching" (3:05) looks at the story of the miners, and a trailer (2:34) completes things, along with a digital copy.

Final Thoughts:

The story of ‘The 33' is undeniable, yet the story within The 33 was a rare case of fouling up something that didn't have to be this way. The story was too big for its britches in the very basic elements. I don't know if one was supposed to feel like they were in a mine AFTER seeing the film, but that's what I felt. Technically, the audio for this is a stunner, and the extras were on the minimal side. Feel free to see it, but you will wind up leaving underwhelmed by the experience.

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