Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Aces in the Hole

Posted By on Tue, Oct 12, 2010 at 7:14 AM

Aces In the Hole: 33 Chilean Miners, 1,584 Hours
  • Photograph: Ho New/Reuters
  • Aces In the Hole: 33 Chilean Miners, 1,584 Hours

As the pending rescue of 33 Chilean miners trapped for 66 days since August begins, I can't help but think of two contemporary films dealing with heroic struggles of survival—one true, the other dramatic.

How minor (get it?) does Ryan Reynolds "90 minutes of air trapped in a coffin" scenario in Buried feel when measured against the plight of 33 men stuck in a mineshaft? How swiftly do James Franco's 127 Hours seem compared to 66 days?

To Sartre, who once wrote "l'enfer, c'est les autres," the miners, with only the company of one another, are literally in hell.

Think of Ryan Reynolds and James Franco as enjoying some quality "me" time. (Some folks might cut off their right arm for such an opportunity...Too soon?)

127 Hours


With so much opportunistic press coverage, including soap opera drama ("Miners' kin struggle with jealousy, rivalries"), religious fanaticism ("There are 33 of them, and Jesus died and came back to life when he was 33) and the establishment of "Camp Hope," a tent village for friends, family, supporters, and on-lookers, the most appropriate (and prescient) film is Billy Wilder's 1951 satire, Ace In the Hole (AKA The Big Carnival), in which Kirk Douglas plays Chuck Tatum, a reporter who manipulates the process of extracting a trapped miner while developing a more dramatic story, and increases newspaper sales and tourism interest.

Despite some slightly dated "whipper-snapper" turns of phrase, the film feels as fresh today as it did a half-century ago.

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