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The 33

Year: 2015
Production Co: Alcon Entertainment
Director: Patricia Riggen
Writer: Mikko Alanne/Craig Borten/Michael Thomas/Jose Rivera
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche, Lou Diamond Phillips, Rodrigo Santoro

When Tomorrowland came out I was amazed how little of the narrative about the film was centred on the female lead character, a crisis of conscience about which Hollywood's still very much in the grip of as I write this review.

So I'm finding it just as perplexing how little I've read about this movie having a female director, especially considering how many action/adventure elements it has.

It's the story of the 33 miners stuck underground after the 2010 collapse in the San Jose mine in the middle of Chile's Atacama desert, and the efforts of those above ground to free them.

We meet the miners in very Hollywood fashion – living their lives among family, food and friends. You can't really blame the screenwriter for falling back on 'lovable working people' cliches (the old guy about to retire, the loving couple about to have a baby, the exposition-newbie so they can explain the way the mine works) because it's a true story, but the script certainly uses them as character hooks.

The collapse sequence is very well done using a blend of tension in the script and effects on screen, and from there the story diverges. Underground, the men find themselves going slowly mad with hunger and fear, trying to hold it together under the erstwhile leadership of Mario Sepulveda (Antonio Banderas) and mine safety manager Don Lucho (Lou Diamond Phillips) and not lose hope or their minds.

Up above, Mario's firebrand sister Maria (Juliette Binoche) tried to shame the government into including the miners' families in the rescue efforts instead of fencing the area off and guarding it with guns, giving them a stake in the process.

She finds an ally in the newly minted Chilean government minister who oversees mining, Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro) and soon the mouth of the mine is a thriving community of support and hope as the experts rush to locate the missing men and get them out.

There are some fairly overripe lines (Mario staring reverently at the rocky ceiling and saying 'it's the heart of the mountain... she finally broke' is among the silliest), but the movie does a good job of keeping you invested using people and their plight – especially after the blockbusting, big screen opening of the collapse sequence.

The only thing that needs to happen now is that some producer or studio needs to realise director Patricia Riggen can combine spectacle and heart and give her a high profile fictional movie – maybe this discussion about sexism we should have settled in the 1950s can finally solved.

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