The 33 is based on the true story of 33 Chilean miners who were trapped three miles below the earth when the gold mine they were in collapsed. But, as the youngest miner, Jimmy Sanchez, wrote in a letter to those on the surface, “There are actually 34 of us because God has never left us down here.”
The 33 lived for 17 days on only three days worth of rations with no contact from the outside world, trapped by a rock larger than the Empire State Building, in 100 degree heat, not knowing if they would ever be rescued. Then another 52 days with food and supplies sent down through a four inch tube while rescuers designed and built a rescue tube. Still not sure if the plan would work, if they would ever get out.
The story of The 33 is nothing short of miraculous. Topographer Macarena Valdes told The Wall Street Journal, “It was 75 percent engineering and 25 percent miracle.” She said that drilling into the ground to find the miners, even though they knew exactly where they were, was next to impossible. “It was like using a shotgun to hit a mosquito at 700 meters.” They tried 30 times over more than two weeks before they hit the right spot.
The miners had no problem giving the credit for the miracle to God, and the movie did a great job of making that clear without sounding preachy or simplistic. Though there was overt spiritual content, I would have no problem recommending it to atheist or agnostic friends. Because the movie wasn’t just a message, it was a story. Well, several stories. Well told.
What The 33 did so well is what we are called to do as Christians. It took a news event, and gave it a face and a name. It made it about real people, not an issue. The movie was intense, it was powerful, it was heart-wrenching. Not just because of the “big story” of the rescue at the mine, but because of the “little stories” of the lives of the people inside.
I was pulled into the lives of these 33 — the young man who was about to be a father for the first time, the old man who was on his last day of work before retirement, the depressed alcoholic who was going through withdrawal, the guilt-ridden safety inspector who had known the mine was close to collapse, the de-facto leader who was keeping hope alive with sheer determination and the “pastor” who was driving out hate with love.
For me, the most God-honoring moment of the film was the exchange between Jose, “The Pastor,” and Dario, the alcoholic young man, who had alienated himself from the group when he hoarded food, and whose demons were so strong he even hated himself.
“Why don’t you hate me like everyone else?”
“Hate is for children.”
What a message for our polarized world today. When terrorists bomb cities and then everybody fights about the politics of it on social media, some of us spewing as much hate as the bombs did.
God is love. His people are to be the voice of love. The hands and feet of love. To reach out to those whom the world rejects. To see those who are suffering. To love them when no one else does. To be so shockingly loving that people ask us why.
It is this love that leads Dario to faith and to redemption. Whether he was ever rescued from that mine or not.
“We can pray together.”
“I don’t know the words.”
“God doesn’t care.”
The story of The 33 isn’t just the miraculous rescue, but, as Sanchez said, that God was there. He never left them.
The movie opened with the sobering statistic that 12,000 people die in mining accidents every year. Not all of us get miraculous Hollywood happy endings. Some of us die of cancer, some of our marriages end in divorce, some of us lose our battles with depression.
But God is there. He never leaves us. He loves us when no one else does and He longs to hear from us, whether we know the words or not.
All of us will suffer, all of us will die one day. The question is, how will we live? Will we live lives of love, of faith, of hope? Will we bring faith and hope and love to others?
Love is what changed Dario’s heart. Love is what can change the world.
The official trailer: