Based on the real-life rescue operation to save a young football team and their coach who became trapped in a cave in Thailand, back in 2018, Thirteen Lives is a biographical survival film from director Ron Howard. The movie stars Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, and Joel Edgerton, and depicts the events surrounding the incredible rescue attempt, which spanned almost three weeks.
In the movie, the young players of the Wild Boars football team finish their game and head off to Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park to explore. Here they enter the Tham Luang Cave, shortly before there is a huge downpour of rain, and they are not seen again.
A few hours later, when the children fail to return home, their parents set out to search for them. This soon kick-starts an extensive rescue operation, with Navy SEALS heading into the cave, and the team’s plight making international headlines.
Soon, this rescue becomes an even bigger task, with expert cave divers brought into the operation, including a team from the UK. But with the rain continuing to pour down, the cave rapidly filling up with water, and the air supply getting low, the rescue mission becomes a race against the clock to save lives.
Thirteen Lives was released into select cinemas on July 29th, but from today the movie is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video. Whether you are familiar with the real-life events or not, I recommend you take a look at Thirteen Lives, as it is an excellent picture.
The film features a mix of Thai and English languages, to add authenticity to the story, and includes various sequences of the central characters working their way through the cave, in dangerous, and pretty dire situations. The film runs to around two-and-a-half-hours in length, and I am pretty confident that anyone watching will be gripped within minutes.
In total, the real-life rescue mission took 18 days to come to ahead. Thirteen Lives covers this period of time in the film, showcasing the many challenges that occurred along the way, including the triumphs, tensions, and tragedy.
Of course, this is a dramatization of the real event, so the story keeps to key story beats, condensing the reality and bleakness of the situation considerably, and removing some of the rescue ideas that were originally proposed. However, the film captures the grit and determination of the human spirit, which is at the centre of this tale, and this remains its strength throughout.
The film also focuses in on the key element to the eventual rescue – an idea that was incredibly dangerous, but proved vital to the outcome of this tale. If you don’t know how the football team were rescued from the cave, don’t Google it, just watch the film to find out.
For those who get enthralled by drama, the underwater sequences showcase a glimpse of how awful the real-life event must have been and they do everything they need to, in order to pull you into the story. This is tense, suspenseful, claustrophobic, and powerful stuff.
I don’t know the intricacies of how the cave scenes in this movie were filmed, presumably using huge water tanks on sound stages and so forth, but nor do I care. The whole thing feels very real (incredibly so), and I found myself getting lost in the harrowing magic of it all.
All-in-all, Thirteen Lives benefits from some great performances from Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, and Joel Edgerton, as well as expert direction from Ron Howard. Howard manages to keep this whole piece thundering along brilliantly, maintaining the human element in the story at all times.
In short: Thirteen Lives is superb. Howard manages to tell an important, captivating tale, and I highly recommend you take a look.