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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The 33 is the intense but inspiring true story of 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground for more than two months. The collapse of the mine is portrayed in a very tense, scary, loud sequence; later, there are several scenes of interpersonal conflict (which could upset some kids) as miners struggle to survive with little food and water and as worried loved ones angrily press the government to rescue the trapped men. One character is an alcoholic who goes through detox while underground. Language is infrequent but does include a few uses of "s--t," plus other words. Despite the serious subject matter, the movie has strong themes of support, teamwork, faith against the odds, and persistence, and tweens and up may find the dignity with which most characters conduct themselves uplifting.
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What's the story?
THE 33 miners of the movie's title descend one morning into their place of work, a deep Chilean gold mine. Owing to unsafe conditions, they proceed to endure a collapse that traps them with little food and water for 69 days. The miners understandably view their disaster as a death sentence, fearing their depth will make it impossible for rescuers to find them, never mind dig them out. But their loved ones up above -- with the aid of an idealistic minister of mines -- press the government to move, and worldwide action ensues. International drilling teams bring expert engineers and heavy equipment. Equipment malfunctions and engineers deem the effort hopeless, but perseverance and lucky breaks pay off. Meanwhile, the drama of men who assume they're doomed plays out below, complete with personal tensions, leadership upheavals, and an eventual aura of brotherly support.
Is it any good?
No doubt some facts or situations are condensed and compromised in this retelling of the true 2010 event, but the movie is rendered with satisfying sensitivity, art, and passion. In one instance of poetic license, the filmmakers imagine an ecstatic, Last Supper-like moment in which the starving, dirt-painted miners sit at a large table, sharing the few morsels that serve as their once-a-day meal, all hallucinating that their beaming, fresh-smelling loved ones are joining them, bearing bountiful trays of favorite delicacies. (Speaking of Chilean food, empanadas and other classic dishes are everywhere in the movie -- as are touchstones like reporter Don Francisco and the rallying cry of "Chi-chi-chi...le-le-le viva Chile!" -- giving the film a real sense of being grounded in the culture.)
The cast of The 33 is led by Antonio Banderas, who plays practical, diplomatic miner Mario with humanity and intelligence. Lou Diamond Phillips brings gravitas to the role of the mine foreman, who feels responsible for exposing his workers to harm, and Rodrigo Santoro embodies diffidence and moral fortitude, transforming the earnest Minister of Mines into an introverted hero who's able to face down Chile’s politically cautious president. Most viewers will know the story's triumphant outcome going in, but that knowledge in no way diminishes the emotions, tension, and suspense achieved by a strong script, intelligent direction, and grounded performances.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how The 33 creates tension when (in theory) you already know the story's ending. How can fact-based movies maintain/encourage suspense? Does it matter if you know the resolution? Many scenes are scary and/or tense -- but would you consider them violent? What's the difference in impact between what you see in a movie like this and what you might see in, say, a superhero or horror movie?
How did the scenes of the miners' relatives dealing with fear and anxiety make you feel? Which is harder for you to deal with -- that kind of scene or violent moments? Why?
How did the characters find hope in such desperate circumstances? Do you think they behave in believable ways? How close do you think the movie is to the powerful real story that was in the news for so long? Why might filmmakers change the facts in movies based on real-life events?
What do you notice in the movie that's different from -- or similar to -- your daily life in terms of food, music, and interactions? What details do the filmmakers include to make the movie feel like an authentic Chilean story?
- In theaters: November 13, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: February 16, 2016
- Cast: Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche, Rodrigo Santoro, Cote de Pablo
- Director: Patricia Riggen
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Great Boy Role Models
- Character Strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 120 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: a disaster sequence and some language
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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