The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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“The 33:” An inspirational true story

Every year, an estimated 12,000 miners around the world die deep below the Earth’s crust in the very tunnels they work. “The 33” is the story about 33 Chilean miners who were buried alive in a mine for over two months before rescue.

From Director Patricia Riggen and Producer Michael Medavoy comes the story of courage and triumph of the human spirit. This true survival story that captivated the entire world five years ago returns in a film to show the never-before-seen actual events that unfolded above and below ground.

Set in Copiapó, Chile and the San José Mine, “The 33” begins with a jubilant event amongst several of the Chilean miners and their families. These will be the lives—the joys and loves—from which the miners are torn for nearly 70 days.

As they are driven an hour-long ride 200 stories below the Earth, they all know one harrowing fact: there is only one way in and one way out. The film moves quickly to the collapse of the 100-year-old gold and copper mine, rightly so, as this is the story of the miners’ resilience.

Viewers already know the story of these 33 miners. Héctor Tobar has already written a critically-acclaimed book, “Deep Down Dark,” off which the movie’s screenplay was based. Yet, we have never been able to see what it is the miners and their families see. From Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures comes a movie that is equally excellent in its execution of a suspenseful movie unseen as well as faithful in their storytelling.

When asked what would make people go see a movie where the ending is already known, Medavoy said that it’s difficult, especially since they are not making a documentary.  “What we try to do is to put the best foot forward on a real story, on a true story.”

“We were always very very respectful to the real characters and the real story,” Riggen said. “It makes me very proud to say that 90-95 percent of the movie is true.

“It’s very easy as a filmmaker, as a writer, as a director, to just go off and make a movie inspired by an event and then just choose whatever we want to do to make it the most appealing, the most exciting, the most emotional and we didn’t.”

In the movie, the phrase “death trap” is uttered about the mine. The frustration and devastation is palpable. If you think you’re not going to cry, you will be proved wrong. Even the original 33 miners who lived the ordeal, upon watching the movie, cried when seeing what their wives and family members went through in order to save them. The movie does a phenomenal job in contrasting the above and the below, the light and the dark.

It’s important to understand just how real the movie is in both its production and its cast. “There were no sets in this entire movie,” Patricia Riggen said. “We shot the whole movie inside of a mine. We walked 35 times, 35 days, into a mine— 14 hours a day, six days a week.”

Lou Diamond Phillips, who plays the character of Don Lucho, said, “There was no detoxing. This was total immersion. We were living the humble lives of a miner 24/7.”

Even though the movie is neither about the beginning nor the end, rather about the dire story during the time the men are entombed, knowing the movie’s ending does give several people hope.

Regarding this true story, Antonio Banderas, who plays the role of de facto leader Mario Sepulveda, said the ordeal had, “A more Hollywood ending than any Hollywood movie.”

“If you want a happy ending, it depends of course on when you end your story,” Phillips said, quoting Orson Welles. “This is a very happy ending. […] Their lives went on.”

However, the statistic is 12,000 miners. “How many of these stories, […] how many people [have] died that we don’t even know?” Banderas asked. He said we will be surprised by the number of abandoned miners of which these 33 were nearly going to be a part. “It is a miracle.”

This brilliant production about the psyches and lives of 33 men fortunate enough to have been saved, defying all odds and attempts to forget about them, is a testament and an affirmation of the human condition.

Regardless of your movie preferences, this inspirational film is a must-watch. The movie premieres on Friday, Nov. 13, almost exactly five years after the men emerged from the ruins.

“It’s about rebirth and the strength of the human spirit and so much more,” Riggen said.

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About the Contributor
Jenny Chen, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Jenny is a senior English major who hopes to increase the Torch's readability of content, writing technique, and level of interest in our readers. She has been with the Torch for three years.
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