Thai cave rescue film Thirteen Lives avoids Hollywood’s cheesy tricks

You’ll have to hand it over to American director Ron Howard for resisting the lure of “Hollywood-ising” the Thailand Cave Rescue true story.

But when a story is as extraordinary and as famous as the 2018 rescue of 12 children and their soccer coach from a flooded cave, any cheap movie trick of getting over the event is crystal clear.

Everyone knows at least the broad hit from those intense 18 days. More importantly, everyone knows the ending, so you can’t inject fake suspense, especially when the real one has gone pretty crazy.

As a dramatization, Thirteen Lives follows the feature documentary Nat Geo, a less-than-successful indie film that predates the Netflix miniseries. Thailand Cave Rescue is such an amazing story that it is very interesting for storytellers.

Howard’s film is a restrained but still gripping retelling, led by a commitment to realism and a deep respect for all involved. You can feel trust in the best people at the worst possible times running through the veins of the film, and that gives strength Thirteen Lives‘ hold the audience.

Starring Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell and Joel Edgerton, the narrative is primarily built around two British cave divers Richard Stanton (Mortensen) and John Volanthen (Farrell) who first find the missing boy more than a week after they were last seen.

And Australian diver and anesthesiologist Richard Harris (Edgerton) who was recruited into the mission because of his specialist skills.

Thirteen Lives investigates ethical confusion and skepticism over the painful decision to sedate the children so they can be taken through a dangerous tunnel system on a five-hour dive.

While we know it’s ultimately a successful mission, the personal cost to those involved has a particular blow in the hands of the accomplished actors and Howard’s steady voice skills and instincts as a director.

Those scenes, though serene and almost ruminative compared to the dive sequences, are what set them apart Thirteen Lives of the best documentaries take on the show. Nat Geo Documentation Rescue is a stunning work but there is something different – ​​not better, just different – ​​about dramatization.

Of course, the signature part of Thirteen Lives is the order of that dive. This does not apply to the documentary verisimilitude but there is realism to the underwater scene.

Thai cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, a frequent collaborator of esteemed filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul, does a wonderful job of evoking the intensity of those moments.

The water is murky, the currents are strong and sometimes you can’t see what’s going on, effectively recreating the challenging conditions all divers operate in, highlighting how nearly impossible their mission is.

Thirteen Lives the center of the experience of Stanton and Volanthen because it is their right to life that the filmmaker has. But regardless, the film largely avoids the ominous complex narrative of white rescuers, spreading its net wider by giving time to the many, many people involved in the rescue.

That includes the Thai Navy, including Saman Kunan (Sukollawat Kanarot), the man who died during the mission, Narongsak Osatanakorn (Sahajack Boonthanakit), the governor who coordinated the operation and Thanet Natisri (Nophand Boonyai), the water engineer who leads a large group of volunteers on the mountaintop trying stem the water flowing into the cave.

The film captures the scale of the operation and the power of that collaboration, even if it can’t pay enough attention to every experience. There are parts that feel rushed and stories that seem unspeakable, but even a two-and-a-half hour movie doesn’t have time for it all.

And the boys’ perspective will be the focus of the upcoming miniseries Thai Cave Rescue after the team struck a deal with Netflix for their live rights.

Thirteen Lives not a complete story but it is a captivating part of a phenomenal moment.

Rating: 3.5/5

Thirteen Lives is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video

Leave a Comment