Thirteen Lives

Thirteen Lives Movie Review

Amazon Prime Video streaming as of August 5, 2022


“Thirteen Lives” retells the story of the Thailand boy’s soccer team who went into a local cave and required a rescue. But it was not only the local townspeople who were watching the rescue events unfold. The entire world was watching. Everyone who saw what was happening was hoping for the best, yet fearing for the worst. The dozen boys, and the adult coach, are trapped beyond any normal means of retrieval. So, in a last-ditch effort to save thirteen lives, the impossible was made to happen…


In Thailand, in mid 2018 — the local boy’s soccer team finished up practice. They are very close to the entrance of the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system. It is a ‘wet’ case, with water seeping and dripping all about. The goes back pretty far, and the twelve boys on the team, plus the soccer coach, make a journey deep into the bowels on the cave system. All is good, until an early monsoon storm hits the region. Before anyone can leave the cave, it has become flooded.


Soon, the entire village and the whole region is caught up in the location of the thirteen people trapped way back in the cave. The local governor (played by Sahajak Boonthanakit) has assistance from the Thai Navy SEALS. The local operations of the US military offer any help that they can give. The Thailand Prime Minister is ready to throw all resources to the difficult issue, as long the local governor takes responsibility. There is an international call-out to a cadre of experienced cave divers.


Two middle aged men from England are ready for the challenge. They are Richard Stanton (played by Viggo Mortensen) and John Volanthen (played by Colin Farrell). They have many years of navigating underwater caves all over the world. The Thai SEAL team has been in the open ocean, that is where they excel. But Rich and John have been in the tight, cramped places where the rocks are jagged and currents can run swift. They have the special gear, and the unique know-how to get to any place in that cave.


The difficult journey back into the contained spaces in the cave is incredibly hard. But once John and Rich locate the area where the small group is located, they know there will be a bigger problem ahead. There is a treacherous pathway in the submerged cave waters, and people such as Rich and John have years of experience. Now there are thirteen additional people who are close to two miles away from the mouth of the cave. There are SEAL divers, but they have never dealt with caves before. John and Rich decide to call in other team members, including Dr. Harry.


“Dr. Harry” is Richard Harris (played by Joel Edgerton) who is an amateur cave diver, also an anesthetist. The Thai SEAL team has been called out of the picture, in terms of the actual rescue. There was a brave SEAL, who was retired, but came back to help. He died in the effort to save the group stranded far back in the cave. So the Thai team will help with support operations, but that is it.


All of the rescue diving will come from the foreigners. That includes John Volanthen, Richard Stanton and Dr. Richard Harris.  They also call on two other very experienced cave divers: Chris Jewell (played by Tom Bateman) and Jason Mallinson (played by Paul Gleeson).


The untested idea that this team will need to use to get the boys (and the coach) out to safety is something that sounds insane. The specialty of Dr. Harry is knocking people out cold with drugs. He is very experienced at doing this, but nobody has done something like this before. He will prepare an injection to put the person to sleep, after they have been suited up with a wetsuit and a breathing mask. Then, one by one, an amateur diver will escort an unconscious boy/coach from the trapped area back deep in the cave — all the way out to the mouth of the cave. All of them will be brought out to safety and out to the waiting officials.


The regional governor thinks this plan is nuts. But this is the only option that they might have to bring them all out. If anything bad happens along the way, the fingers will all point to him. But the alternative is to let the trapped group die in the cave. Rich and John, along with Dr. Harry tell everyone that if they had any other ideas, they would be glad to consider them. But there are no other ideas. Even if this one is a crazy idea, it just might work. But it will take a lot of planning and even more coordinated effort.


The foreign divers all know what to do. Newcomers Chris and Jason are up to speed on the plan. Dr. Harry is ready with the knockout shots. John and Rich are ready to monitor everything back in the caves. The Thai SEAL team is helping with the logistics and getting things ready. The local police are prepared to give all assistance they can. The local hospitals are on alert for whatever happens. Even the US Military team on-site is willing to lend a hand.


“Thirteen Lives” is a well-made movie that covers the same ground that has been done in prior films and documentaries. But this gives a fresh insight on the scope of the problem as a human issue for the participants. There is a lot of time devoted to the soccer team and the coach before this all happens. Not much time is given to the parents and the loved ones of the boys who were trapped in the cave.


Some brief time shows the lives of the two main rescuers (John and Rich). It is able to show that they had lives outside of this single event. They came to Thailand to be helpful, and not to be heroes. They don’t want to be considered heroes, but they want the world to see that they were part of a truly heroic event. This was a major effort, and it was a huge sacrifice, by a very large number of people – all to save “Thirteen Lives”.


Amazon Prime Video streaming as of August 5, 2022

Thirteen Lives

Directed by: Ron Howard
Screenplay by: William Nicholson
Story by: Don Macpherson, William Nicholson
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, Joel Edgerton, Tom Bateman, Paul Gleeson, Sahajak Boonthanakit
Cinematography: Sayombhu Mukdeeprom
Edited by: James D. Wilcox
Music by: Benjamin Wallfisch
Distributed by: United Artists Releasing, Amazon Studios
Prime Video streaming: August 5, 2022
MPAA rating: PG-13 for some strong language and unsettling images
Genre: True-Life Adventure


Rating contributor: JMcNaughton tmc

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