Thirteen Lives: Ron Howard’s Sensitive and Compelling Take on the 2018 Thai Cave Rescue

Thirteen Lives: Ron Howard's Sensitive and Compelling Take on the 2018 Thai Cave Rescue

Ron Howard brings the same blend to Hollywood's Thirteen Lives brilliance, diminutive feeling and celebration of understated daring that made his Apollo 13 so enjoyable.

Provided

Ron Howard brings the same blend to Hollywood’s Thirteen Lives brilliance, diminutive feeling and celebration of understated daring that made his Apollo 13 so enjoyable.

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REVIEW: Already the subject of a Thai drama (2019’s The Cave) and an award-winning National Geographic documentary (2021’s The Rescue), it’s hard to know what else can be said about the incredible story that unfolded in Thailand in June and July 2018.

But veteran director Ron Howard brings the same blend of Hollywood brilliance, diminutive feeling, and understated daring celebration that made his Apollo 13 so enjoyable for everyone, so even if we all know the outcome, you’ll be overwhelmed by the events described. on Thirteen Lives (which begins streaming on Prime Video August 5th).

At 142 minutes, often harrowing and filled with emotion, this isn’t an easy observation, but Howard and screenwriters William Nicholson (Everest, Breathe) and Don MacPherson (2014 Fleming miniseries)’s methodical, slow-paced approach is what draws you in. and you are quickly hooked.

PROVIDED

Thirteen Lives begins streaming on Prime Video on August 5th.

SEE MORE INFORMATION:
* Apollo 13: One of the most exciting dramas of the 90s comes to Neon
* Timeline: The full story of Thai cave rescue
* Reason why we care so much about trapped Thai boys

For the first half hour, we follow the misadventures of junior football team Wild Boars as they fill in the time between practice and an evening birthday party with an impromptu visit to the popular Tham Luang caves.

After arriving at their initial destination, the action deftly switches to party preparations and, as weather conditions rapidly deteriorate, the concern that the 12 boys and their coach are running late. It may be early for the monsoon, but once informed, officials are not at risk.

Knowing that the cave floods every year, Marine seals are deployed. “This could be a long night,” warns the area’s outgoing governor (Sahajak Boonthanakit), pressured to stay there until this growing crisis is satisfactorily resolved, warns. Sadly, to disappointment and dismay, the seals are the ones to resurface – and even they are coming back injured.

National Geography

The Rescue is now available to stream on Disney+.

As more government agencies and international media join the makeshift village at the entrance to the cave, the pressure for a successful outcome – by any means necessary – increases. Crops are sacrificed to divert seemingly endless rainwater from filling the cave’s inner chambers, while local cave expert Vern Unsworth (Lewis Fitz-Gerald) believes he knows the exact international experience needed for this seemingly hopeless situation. Retired firefighter Rick Stanton (Viggo Mortensen) and IT consultant John Volanthen (Colin Farrell) might not be the most obvious heroes, but their knowledge and skills in caving are virtually unrivaled.

Although, when not bickering over cream-cream allocations, it doesn’t take long for this pair to start wondering if this search and rescue is beyond their capabilities.

Viggo Mortensen and Colin Farrell play British cave experts Rick Stanton and John Volenthen in Thirteen Lives.

Provided

Viggo Mortensen and Colin Farrell play British cave experts Rick Stanton and John Volenthen in Thirteen Lives.

Mortensen and Farrell deliver powerful yet understated performances, allowing the situation rather than any histrionics to dictate the drama. Arriving late on the scene, Joel Edgerton also impresses as Australian Dr. Harry Harris, a man with a very particular set of skills that could be the key to their success.

The real MVP of Thirteen Lives, though, has to be Thai cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom (Call Me By Your Name, Memoria). The well-framed point of view and the shots set both above and below the water generate a real sense of claustrophobia and danger that is hard to shake as a spectator. Keyed up? You’ll be gnawing on the pillows having already finished your nails.

It’s not perfect – unfortunately, some of the Thai characters drop out after being a key part of the opening scenes – and Howard would always have trouble getting over the heady mix of real-life scenes and deftly constructed staging, but there’s no doubting that this is one compelling tale, sensitively and intelligently designed for maximum engagement.

Thirteen Lives begins streaming on Prime Video on August 5th.

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