Adherence to formula buries ‘The 33’

I bet the second best part of making it through some unbelievable, life-threatening adversity (behind escaping with your life) is seeing who gets to play you in the movie adaptation.

Take Mario Sepúlveda, for example. The guy survives more than two months trapped underneath a desert in Chile and he gets to be played in a movie by the invincible Antonio Banderas.

Banderas highlights the cast of “The 33,” a “based on the incredible, true story” version of the mining accident that led to 32 Chileans and one Bolivian living in a smoldering, dark cavern for 69 days.

In case you were living under a rock at the time, the Chilean government eventually devised a scheme that involved using an American drill to bore a five-foot wide hole into the earth and send down a capsule that could bring one miner at a time to the loving embrace of sunlight.

In theory, a movie that studies the mental and physical effects of being trapped underground that long while documenting the daring rescue could be great.

“The Martian” recently pulled that off well, and that was a work of fiction.

“The 33” tries to do all of those things, but the execution is generally bland, lacking much excitement and being actively bad at its worst. There’s a scene where the miners all hallucinate their lovers bringing them a decadent feast that is so cheesy I almost considered walking out.

Speaking of which, it’s not an especially kind movie to its female characters. Most of them don’t have much to do besides sit in the desert and lament their situation.

When they are developed, it’s not much better, such as a ferociously unfunny subplot that involves a miner’s wife and mistress quarreling over his affections. The most interesting thread follows a miner and his estranged sister as they attempt to rekindle their relationship, but the movie does nothing with it.

By far the most baffling creative decision in “The 33” is its choice of spoken language. Almost all of it is in English, despite the fact that 33 South American men trapped underground would undoubtedly communicate in Spanish.

I get that this was done for the convenience of American audiences, but some of the actors seem uncomfortable delivering lines in their non-native tongue.

That’s not meant to insult their acting abilities or handle of English, but much of the line deliveries would have been more natural and true-to-life in subtitled Spanish.

Oh, and Irishman Gabriel Byrne plays a Chilean character, so take from that what you will. It’s not all bad, though. When it kicks into high gear and the rescue attempt earnestly gets underway, there is actually some thrill to be found.

Even knowing that all 33 miners made it out safely, it’s genuinely suspenseful. But 20 minutes of engaging material is surrounded by almost two hours of boredom.

“The 33” is watchable, but it doesn’t feel like the movie those miners deserve.