If you had your ears open in 2010, you likely heard the tale of the miners stuck deep down in belly of that Chilean mine.
It was the kind of event that moves the world’s talkers to tell all. The horror of the collapse. The despair of repeated failure to connect with the possible pocket of safety. The glee of discovery to find that the men were still alive. The frustration trying to navigate a safe way to bring them back up. The joy of every man seeing daylight again by walking out of a capsule pulled up through a drilled tunnel, one-by-one, after 69 days stuck down there in the San Jose Mine.
Five years later, director Patricia Riggen took on the challenge of making a movie out of this dramatic tale that the world already knows. And with a script co-written by Mikko Alanne, Craig Borten, Michael Thomas and based on the book Deep Down Dark by Hector Cobar, Riggen decides to split the screen time between the desperate men confined under the dirt and the harried people scurrying about trying to figure out how to reach them and their in turn frustrated and angry families hoping and praying for their safe return.
There’s plenty of drama to go around.
Antonio Banderas and Lou Diamond Phillips play the kingpins underground, the former as Mario Sepulveda, full of hope and perseverance and assumed leadership, and the latter as Luis “Don Lucho” Urzua, grizzled company crew chief who battled the big bosses for more safety features but always lost. They’re both true and convincing, as allies and on edge when things go south.
Rodrigo Santoro and Juliette Binoche hold the most intriguing parts above ground, the former as an earnest minister of mines who won’t let the president follow the private company’s lead and allow the problem to go away by assuming the same failure as so many mine collapses in the past and the latter as the Empanada-baking sister of one of the miners, an alcoholic who cut her out of his life whom she refuses to give up on nevertheless. The president buys the minister’s plan and brings in the best Chilean engineer he can find, played by Irish actor Gabriel Byrne.
And nobody gives up, down the mine or above ground, no matter the hardest-rock, biggest-mountain challenges that seem to keep getting harder and bigger.
It’s quite an uplifting message.
But it is not a perfect film, no, what with an odd dream sequence in which all the miner’s seem to conjur up images of their loved once at the same time that sticks out like a bad choice.
Two pre-credits-roll reveals angered me. The mine company was found not guilty of any criminal negligence in the collapse, and none of the miners received any compensation for their ordeal. That made me think that what I’d thought was a pretty cool ending choice by Riggen — black-and-white footage of the 33 together again as brothers forever after the filming of this movie — wasn’t really an ending at all. How the heck dis those two things happen?
Do you recall the Chilean mine collapse story of 2010 from news accounts? Do you enjoy movie adaptations from news stories or prefer straight documentaries, and why? What’s your favorite Antonio Banderas movie, and why?