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The 33: Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

The 33 (2015) movie poster The 33

Theatrical Release: November 13, 2015 / Running Time: 127 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Patricia Riggen / Writers: Mikko Alanne, Craig Borten, Michael Thomas (screenplay); José Rivera (screen story); Hector Tobar (book Deep Down Dark)

Cast: Antonio Banderas (Mario Sepúlveda), Rodrigo Santoro (Laurence Golborne), Juliette Binoche (María Segovia), James Brolin (Jeff Hart), Lou Diamond Phillips (Luis Urzua "Don Lucho"), Mario Casas (Álex Vega), Jacob Vargas (Edison Peña), Juan Pablo Raba (Darío Segovia), Oscar Nuñez (Yonni Barrios), Tenoch Huerta (Carlos Mamani), Marco Treviño (José Henríquez), Adriana Barraza (Marta Salinas), Kate del Castillo (Katty Valdivia), Cote de Pablo (Jessica Salgado), Elizabeth De Razzo (Susana Valenzuela), Naomi Scott (Escarlette), Gustavo Angarita (Mario Gómez), Alejandro Goic (Lobos), Bob Gunton (President Piñera), Gabriel Byrne (Andre Sougarret)

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In 2010, the collapse of an old Chilean gold and copper mine left thirty-three miners trapped.
Their survival story would seem to lend to feature film treatment, as others from Alive to 127 Hours have. But it is America, not Chile, that brings us this tale in The 33, a drama that underperformed in theaters last fall and this week invites discovery on DVD and Blu-ray.

The 33 wastes no time developing several of the characters in its large cast in ways you can imagine later being exploited. There is an expectant young married couple who doesn't know the gender of their forthcoming baby. There is an old man days away from retiring. There is Mario (Antonio Banderas), a loving family man who emerges as our protagonist. A compassionate supervisor (Lou Diamond Phillips). A ne'er-do-well alcoholic (Juan Pablo Raba) whose sister (Juliette Binoche) sells empanadas door to door. A man (Oscar Nuñez of NBC's "The Office") whose wife and mistress are feuding neighbors. An Elvis impersonator.

All these men and a new Bolivian guy (Tenoch Huerta) are working at the San José mine on August 5, 2010. Cave-ins begin just fifteen minutes into the film, when a piece of the mountain with twice the mass of the Empire State Building shifts and crumbles. The miners who are at the "Machine Shop", 1,700 feet below, are wise enough to rush down to The Refuge, a location 2,300 feet beneath the surface, where they find safety. The 33 workers are injured but alive, and suddenly facing a desperate situation. They are trapped with just 3 days' worth of food and water to sustain them. They try to remain hopeful while rationing cookies and milk to extremes.

Thirty-three Chilean miners are trapped 2,300 feet below ground in "The 33."

Meanwhile, up on the surface, Chile's new minister of mining Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro) convinces the President (Bob Gunton, doing a passable accent) to let him visit the site and do everything he can to rescue the miners. Golborne is viewed suspiciously by the distraught family members who camp out at the site desperate for answers and hopeful their loved ones are still alive. That empanada vendor is especially outspoken and invested.

Golborne sets up a commissary, a hospital, and a school out of tents, while also bringing in all the drills he can. Chief engineer Andre Sougarret (Gabriel Byrne) directs the daunting drilling, hoping these unprecedented rescue missions are not in vain. You can probably figure out that Hollywood wouldn't make a movie in which a mining accident sparked a rescue mission that was entirely in vain. But nearly two weeks pass before the drill reaches The Refuge and when it does, it ends up missing its mark by ten meters.

Down in the mine, where the temperature remains around 95°F, the men try to ignore their hunger and keep their cool. Even once they establish communication with Golborne and their would-be rescuers and have food and supplies (from clean clothes to iPods) dropped down, they are far from out of the woods, with various nations' submitting machinery that is untested at navigating such a deep and unstable rock formation. The men have been down there for 69 days altogether, enough time for various fights to break out over book deals, when the teams plan to start pulling them up one at a time.

Newly appointed minister of mining Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro) does everything he can to attempt a rescue. Outspoken empanada vendor María Segovia (Juliette Binoche), the sister of a trapped miner, becomes the face of the heartbroken family members trying to remain hopeful on site.

I don't think I'm spoiling anything when I say that The 33 is a feel-good disaster/survival film. The end credits begin with black and white footage of the real survivors all smiles, despite a lawsuit that arose right before the film opened accusing their lawyers of fraud that cheated them out of royalties.

While the story probably needed some finesse to fit the model of a PG-13 wide theatrical release, The 33 seems to have done an admirable job of remaining true to the event and to the people who featured in it. The international cast is full of Latino Americans, a group as underrepresented as any in Hollywood. The few actors of different ethnicities manage to play their roles with tact and sensitivity.
Though it is performed in English, it is no whitewashing. The director, Patricia Riggen, is a Mexican woman, with a few respectable film and TV credits under her belt. Adapted from Hector Tobar's book, the screenplay is attributed to an uncollaborative trio from Finland and elsewhere, and the story to a Puerto Rican playwright.

Though The 33 could and should be celebrated for its diversity, an issue on everyone's minds this Oscar season, its failure to find an audience does not strengthen its case. The film opened in 5th place on its way to just $12 million and change domestically, a total it matched in the few (mostly South and Central American) markets that bothered to exhibit it. That underperformance has led Warner Bros. to forgo one of their standard combo packs in favor of separate Blu-ray and DVD editions, the former of which we review here.

The 33 is noteworthy for containing the final score of James Horner, who incorporates flutes and other woodwinds as he was wont to do.

The 33 Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish, Descriptive Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: February 16, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $29.98
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($28.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video


The 33 has the cinematic flair you expect of a $26 million-budgeted film. The Blu-ray reflects the film's high enough production values, with the sharp 2.40:1 widescreen transfer and potent 5.1 DTS-HD master audio sound mix both satisfying completely. The very little bit of Spanish dialogue is translated by player-generated subtitle.

Behind-the-scenes footage shows how "The Mine Collapse" was recreated with rigs, green screen, and gym mats. Director Patricia Riggen discusses the story's significance in "The World Was Watching."


This lightweight Blu-ray includes just three bonus features.

First, "The Mine Collapse" (3:54) details the creation of the film's one big set piece with a mix of visual effects and production design.

"The World Was Watching" (3:25) sort of ruminates about the story and about the contrast between those in the cave and those outside in the desert hoping for their rescue.

Finally, The 33's original theatrical trailer (2:34) is included, something uncommon enough for a new movie from Warner (or any other major studio) that the packaging mentions its inclusion. It's a decent trailer, but I think the reason it's here is because so little else is.

The disc opens with trailers for In the Heart of the Sea, Creed, Point Break, and Our Brand Is Crisis, with a promo for digital movies slipped in between the first two.

The menu attaches some score to poster/cover key art.

The lone insert -- a sheet with code and directions for the Digital HD with UltraViolet included with your purchase -- joins the plain silver disc inside the unslipcovered eco-friendly keepcase.

Trapped miners listen hopefully to the sound of approaching drills in "The 33."


The 33 joins the long tradition of investable true survival stories. Even if the outcome is never in doubt for you, the journey there fascinates under fine and tasteful direction. Warner's Blu-ray is light on extras, but its feature presentation leaves nothing to be desired. This one warrants a rental at least.

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Reviewed February 17, 2016.

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