Back in 2018, the Chiang Rai Province of northern Thailand was devastated by the flooding of the Tham Luang Nang Non cave. 12 soccer players as young as 11-years-old, along with their coach, became trapped more than 2 miles into the cave as monsoon rainfall made it impossible for them to get back out. Terrifying, right?
Thirteen Lives tells the true story of their rescue by a team of experienced cave divers portrayed by Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, and Joel Edgerton. Director Ron Howard cuts no corners communicating the actual anxiety and restlessness felt internationally as the world watched the news unfold. We all knew he mastered the art of the biographical film with Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, and Cinderella Man, but then Hillbilly Elegy happened.
Unfortunately, with so many films based on real stories there’s a sense of sensationalism that feels exploitative. That’s especially the case in movies about tragedy (or maybe I’m alone in my thoughts about Titanic). In any case, Thirteen Lives does an outstanding job giving an unembellished take to the story. It’s quite long at 142 minutes, but you’re immediately drawn in with consistent edge-of-your-seat moments. We see the fear and hope from the families, the instantaneous attention from the public, and both the efficiency and hesitation from the eventual heroes.
I can’t imagine how frightened the soccer team must’ve felt, or even the immense pressure on everyone figuring out a plan to get the team out safely, but this film does a splendid job laying out the story in a thrilling, satisfying manner.
I expect most audiences to be overcome with inspiration and exhilaration after watching Thirteen Lives. The excellent acting and careful storytelling make the length truly worth the watch.
Thirteen Lives is in theaters July 29th and on Amazon Prime August 5th. Watch the trailer here.