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The 33 is cinematic realism at its best, an inspiring and powerfully told true story that works well within the constraints of a recent story, and handles the complexities of an ensemble cast. It’s hard to take a story like this and make it more than just another news story turned feature, but there’s a lot of great dramatic tension throughout, and the empathetic quality found in the cast makes it standout from other stories.

Set in 2010, The 33 follows a crew of 33 miners that embark on a mission to extract copper from one of the most infamous mines in Chile. The group consists of a diverse team of miners at different stages of their careers, but team leader Mario Sepúlveda (Antonio Banderas) makes valiant attempts to unite the team. When the heart of the mountain collapses, the team is stranded underground, leaving their countries forces to rescue them as they attempt to survive without descending into chaos.

Director Patricia Riggen creates a spectacular looking film, with several particularly intense disaster sequences, as well as emotional breakdowns. The scope of the film is fantastic, and there’s a real emotional connection felt with these characters despite their flaws, adding more realism. Though the scenes shifting away from the miners, those focusing on their families and the governmental strategies, are less interesting and relevant to those within the mine, the film does a good job at bridging the gap and looking through the story through different angles.

It’s also a testament to the performances that the film works so well, as the main crux of the story falls upon the connection made with those trapped. Though Antonio Banderas’s charismatic and subtle lead role is perhaps the central protagonist, it’s definitely an ensemble piece. The group has great chemistry, and the companionship that’s seen between the characters is in many ways what drives the film through a thin story. At nearly two hours it’s slightly overlong, but the power of the cast does a great job at carrying the film.

The 33 is an authentic feeling, well crafted, and emotionally satisfying depiction of a real life event, and walks the line of being both respectful while telling a naturally cinematic story. It’s an enjoyable experience, as the classic story of success goes beyond the achievements of any individual, and the film never falters in recognizing those involved, and bringing their story to life with intensity and passion. Grade: B