Director: Patricia Riggen
Writers: Mikko Alanne, Craig Borten, Michael Thomas, Jose Rivera, Hector Tobar
Stars: Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, James Brolin, Lou Diamond Phillips
The Chilean Miners story comes to the silver screen with a big budget and some very strange choices in casting. What you have to remember here though is that this is a story of hope, and triumph over impossible odds. A story that shows that when it comes to it and we humans come together to put our differences to one side that anything is possible. But before I do my sermon on how humanity can be fixed I’ll just tell you about this film.
If you remember the miners that went down the mine and there was that massive cave in, and no one could get to them, and they thought that they were all dead, then this is their true story. We get to know a few of the main miners, and the staggering rationing that they had to go through, and the good feeling of their rescue. The story itself moves along quickly and we see how these miners have a brotherly bond between them. There is enough of the whole explanation of how dangerous it to be working in a mine in the first place, then we have a story about the mine being unsafe to work in and quotas being raised. The Safety Officer for the mine is played by Lou Diamond Phillips, not too strange casting but strange enough, has to put his concerns to one side as the company running the mine just cares about the amount taken out of the ground. The man who keeps the team together during the extreme amount of time they spent trapped in the mine. The collapse is over too quickly though and I know this is a true story but they really could have taken a little more time to make that dramatic moment really hit you.
We’re not just with the miners, we spend a lot of time up above ground with the many families of the men. The many different families add a texture to the whole story, and the one miner with a mistress who lives next door to his wife gives us a tonne in weight of comedic relief. Something that distracted me was the soundtrack, the music here just didn’t fit the dramatic storyline. It’s too peppy for a drama, a soundtrack should compliment the story, here you just start thinking about Looney Tune cartoons. But that is not the biggest problem with the film, the jaunty music is a problem, but the main thing that bothered me, and added unintentional comedic laughs was the casting.
The story is set in Chile, so you’d think that the Hollywood machine would try find the best actors that Chile or the surrounding countries have, but no, lets never underestimate the Hollywood idiocy. Lou Diamond Phillips and Antonio Banderas you can pass off, they are named actors that probably gave the producers enough clout to get the financing of the film. But casting Gabriel Byrne and Juliette Binoche as people from Chile is something that is bordering on racist. Binoche plays the determined sister of one of the miners, who won’t leave her estranged brother die under the ground, and gives her usual solid performance. But Gabriel Byrne, my fellow Irishman, cannot hold his accent for more than five words and the amount of times that this caused me to scoff was measured by the amount of popcorn that flew out of my mouth when I laughed. I love the man in a lot of movies, but there must have been a great pay-day for him to do this.
The problems you have through the running time of the film are brushed to one side when the film draws to a close and the miners start to be rescued, it’s not a spoiler it was on the news, and you start to feel good about humanity. This is still worth seeing as the triumph over near impossible odds makes you feel better about people in a time when we are further apart than ever. It feels like a TV movie through a lot of the film but is worth checking out on the big screen.