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The 33 tells its story, but it cant make you feel it
Antonio Banderas, far right, stars as Mario Seplveda and Jacob Vargas, top left (standing) as Edison Pea in Alcon Entertainment's true-life drama "The 33." - photo by Josh Terry
THE 33 2 stars Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, James Brolin, Lou Diamond Phillips; PG-13 (a disaster sequence and some language); in general release

An opening title card at the beginning of "The 33" indicates that more than 12,000 people die as a result of mining accidents every year. That fact makes the events of "The 33" even more poignant. Like "The Martian" last month, "The 33" plays on that curious bit of human nature that allows us to rally around those in need when the numbers really don't add up.

"The 33" relates the true story of the 33 miners who were trapped 2,000 feet underground in a Chilean gold mine for more than two months in 2010. It's an entertaining if shallow film that gets the facts of the story across without quite making the experience resonate.

Thirty-three is a lot of protagonists, but director Patricia Riggen sets up some leads among her large cast. Lou Diamond Phillips plays Don Lucho, the de facto leader of the operation. Antonio Banderas plays Mario Seplveda, a down-on-his-luck father who convinces Lucho to let him join the crew. That crew is pretty much all that is keeping Daro (Juan Pablo Raba) from descending completely into alcoholism and homelessness, much to the concern of his sister Mara (Juliette Binoche). And a soon-to-be-father named lex Vega (Mario Casas) is trying to fight off his family's efforts to lure him out of the mining business.

It doesn't take long before the dramatic mine collapse sets up the film's primary predicament. Soon after we meet Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro), the government official sent by President Piera (Bob Gunton, wrestling with a Spanish accent) to assess the situation. Initially, the company has little interest in locating the trapped miners (see the fatality statistic above), but the men's families are able to get enough media interest stirred up to force the government's hand.

The thing that makes "The 33" interesting is the way it scrambles the traditional rescue narrative. Where most public figures of this type gain their celebrity once they are delivered from their fame-making circumstances, technology allows the miners to become public figures long before their actual rescue, and they wrestle with the pressures of fame (and each other) while they are still in the mine. Mario develops enough fame that he gets offered a book deal before rescuers have come up with a suitable solution to reach him.

It's a unique dynamic, but it also undermines a story that covers its bases but falls short of the harrowing emotional potential of its predicament. Think of "Unbroken," another recent film based on a real life story of endurance. Watching "Unbroken" is an exhausting experience, one you probably won't want to endure a second time thanks to its relentless intensity. With "The 33," you know what the miners are enduring, but you never really feel it. It makes for a heartwarming film, but not an inspirational one.

The shortcomings don't make "The 33" a bad film, but they definitely knock it down a peg. Banderas and company do the best they can with what they are given, but like the last cans of tuna in the mine, there's just not a lot to go around.