A rescue mission is assembled in Thailand where a group of young boys and their soccer coach are trapped in a system of underground caves that are flooding.
In summer 2018 the world was captivated by that summer’s World Cup, but they were also captivated by a story coming out of Thailand where 12 members of a junior football team and their coach were trapped deep in a cave system when sudden heavy rain trapped them. The way this situation and the subsequent rescue attempt unfolded dominated global media and it’s unsurprising that the story has been turned into a feature film, courtesy of seasoned director Ron Howard, who has previous in bringing real life drama to screen, most notably and most relevant with ‘Apollo 13’. ‘Thirteen Lives’ is the story of the three week period from when the boys entered the cave to the eventual rescue attempts, and I thought it was a gripping dramatisation of the events.
The film primarily follows the story through the eyes of two British cavers who flew out to help after a British man who lived locally contacted the British Cave Rescue Council for assistance. Those men are Richard Stanton (Viggo Mortensen) and John Volanthen (Colin Farrell), and alongside the Thai Navy SEALs, they lead the attempts to first locate the boys and then to come up with a plan to rescue them. ‘Thirteen Lives’ is at its strongest when it focuses on the rescue attempts and the various dives through the complicated cave system, which certainly had me feeling incredibly claustrophobic! Despite knowing the outcome, Howard does a good job of building tension and suggesting a degree of jeopardy in the rescue and I was swept up in the drama of the story. While the focus is mainly on the rescue attempts, we do also spend some time with large groups of local volunteers who attempt to divert water away from the mountain – no mean feat in the midst of monsoon season. Howard is adept at giving the audience just enough technical knowledge to understand the mechanics of what his characters are doing, without overloading us with information, something undoubtedly garnered from a varied career that has taken in space rescues (‘Apollo 13’), Formula 1 (‘Rush’) and sea disasters (‘In the Heart of the Sea’).
A strong testament to the human spirit and the efforts to rescue these boys no matter how precarious and challenging the mission was, ‘Thirteen Lives’ is a thrilling docudrama about a fascinating true life story that gripped the world, brought to the screen with a steady hand from the experienced Ron Howard.
Directed By: Ron Howard
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, Joel Edgerton, Tom Bateman, Pattarakorn Tangsupakul, Sukollawat Kanarot, Teerapat Sajakul, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Vithaya Pansringarm as General Anupong Paochinda, Teeradon Supapunpinyo, Nophand Boonyai, Paul Gleeson and Lewis Fitz-Gerald