Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The 33

Year 9, Day 10 - 1/10/17 - Movie #2,510

BEFORE: I recorded this film to go on a DVD with "Everest", but that was when I mistakenly thought that Josh Brolin was in both films - it turns out he's not in "The 33", but his father is, hence my confusion.  By the time I figured that out, the film was on the DVD and on my schedule, so I decided to just leave it.  Both films are about rescuing people in danger, one from a very high place and one from a very low place, so I can still see the connection.  But that meant the film couldn't be viewed in December with the other Josh Brolin films, so I've rescheduled it here, with Antonio Banderas carrying over from "Assassins".   This is all part of my process, even the mistakes, and sometimes this is how I accidentally end up seeing some really good movies that I might not normally have even considered.  

THE PLOT: Based on the real-life event - when a gold and copper mine collapses, it traps 33 miners underground for 69 days.

AFTER: About 4 years ago, my wife and I were on a cruise, and we had an excursion on Aruba that consisted of a mountain cave tour, followed by a visit to a butterfly farm.  The caves were historically important, because in the 18th or 19th century, slaves had escaped from their owners and hid there for a time.  What I didn't realize was that once we got inside the cave, the tour guide would close a door to the outside world - then he announced that we would be traveling further into the cave, to experience what life in the caves was like before electricity was invented, and after traveling through a narrow passage into a small room, they were going to turn off the lights for a minute to allow us to get the full effect.  

A man at the back of the tour group said that his wife would prefer to leave before this took place, as she suddenly developed a fear of enclosed places.  "That's a very smart woman," I thought, since I was starting to feel the same way.  Part of me knew that the cave had been standing for hundreds, if not thousands of years, with no cave-ins, but the other part of me felt, deep down, that if anybody would be unlucky enough to tour the cave on that one day in a million, it could be me.  I volunteered to escort the lady back down the mountain's steps, and enjoyed a drink from the soda machine, knowing that whatever infinitesimal chance there was of a tunnel collapse, for me it would now be zero.  Oh, sure, I'd miss my wife terribly and I'd mourn the other people on the tour who I'd recently met, but I'd find a way to soldier on, plus I'd have a great story about how I'd just barely cheated death.  

Well, funny story, there was no cave-in that day, but it's important to remember that I didn't KNOW that at the time, and I did manage to spare the rest of the tour group from having to see a large adult man have a total claustrophobic meltdown in the middle of a dark cave.  It's important for everyone to know their limitations, and once they were established, I could then go on and enjoy my time in Aruba at the butterfly farm.  (But I kept an eye on those butterflies, I've heard they can be quite dangerous...)

My point is, it takes a tough man to be a miner.  And if you find yourself complaining about your job, just watch "The 33" and then get back to me about it.  This is the story of 33 men who survived a tunnel collapse, and then spent weeks rationing their food, with no contact from the outside world, while waiting for an uncertain rescue.  That takes some cojones, my hat is off to them, because I know for a fact I wouldn't last one day doing their job, or dealing with a similar situation.  
And if you think that's dangerous, one of the miners had both a wife and girlfriend who showed up at the mine when the accident made the news.  The two women fought over who deserved to be there, and when the trapped miners were given food and newspapers, he learned that they were both waiting for him.  I bet when he had the chance to be rescued, he probably said, "Can't I just stay down here a little longer, where it's safe?"

I wish they would have explained the process a little better that was used to keep the drill on target to find the miners' location.  Without getting too technical, could they have better clarified what it meant to "let the rock tell the drill where to go" and "aim to miss" means, or was that not possible?  

I'm glad to hear that the rescues miners recovered - but since jobs were hard to find in this area of Chile, some of them ended up working behind the scenes in production jobs on this movie based on their own rescue story.  I can't say if that's ironic, or just a fitting circumstance.  I mean, where are you going to find production assistants and grips who are willing to go into a mine and help with odd jobs during a film set there?  The real Mario Sepulveda worked as a coordinator of the extras for the background scenes. 

You might think it's strange that a French actress and an Irish actor have such prominent roles in a film set in South America.  I mean, everyone's supposed to do "blind" casting these days, and all ethnicities are supposed to be considered for all roles, but if a film casts a Caucasian actor in a role that "should" have gone to a minority, like in "Doctor Strange", everyone still loses their minds and starts pointing fingers.  It turns out that originally Jennifer Lopez was cast in this film, and when she left the production, she was replaced by Juliette Binoche.  Now, Gabriel Byrne playing drilling expert Andre Sougarret is a separate issue, but he did all right, I could buy him as a Chilean, I guess. 

Probably the most shocking thing I learned from this film came from the appearance of famous Latino celebrity Don Francisco - host of the immensely popular Univision variety show "Sabado Gigante" (or "Giant Saturday").  He appeared at the scene of the mining disaster to not only file reports, but to support and encourage the families - and he played himself in this film, only his name does not appear in the credits.  Ah, it turns out that "Don Francisco" is just a stage name, and the real name of this Chilean TV star doesn't sound as Hispanic at all.  

Also starring Rodrigo Santoro (last seen in "300: Rise of an Empire"), Juliette Binoche (last seen in "The English Patient"), Lou Diamond Phillips (last seen in "Supernova"), James Brolin (last seen in "Way...Way Out"), Mario Casas, Jacob Vargas (last seen in "Flight of the Phoenix"), Oscar Nuñez (last seen in "The Italian Job"), Juan Pablo Raba, Tenoch Huerta, Marco Treviño, Adriana Barraza (last seen in "Thor"), Kate del Castillo (last heard in "The Book of Life"), Cote de Pablo, Elizabeth De Razzo, Bob Gunton (last seen in "The Pick-Up Artist"), Gabriel Byrne (last seen in "Hello Again"), Naomi Scott (last seen in "The Martian"), with cameos from Brian Williams, Anderson Cooper (last seen in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice"), and Mario Kreutzberger (see above).

RATING: 6 out of 10 headlamps

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