‘Thirteen Lives’ on Prime Video traces the incredible rescue in a cave in Thailand

Vince Valitutti/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures Thirteen Lives by Ron Howard tells the incredible true story of the rescue of 13 boys from a cave in Thailand in 2018.

Vince Valitutti/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

Thirteen Lives by Ron Howard tells the incredible true story of the rescue of 13 boys from a cave in Thailand in 2018.

CINEMA – 5,000 people from 17 different countries mobilized to save them. In 2018, 12 young footballers accompanied by their coach meet stranded in the Tham luang cave, to the north from Thailand. 18 days. This is the time they will spend in the dark, waiting for the rescuers who are struggling to rescue them.

Four years later, the film Thirteen Lives meticulously retraces each stage of the rescue. Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Ron Howard (An exceptional man, Da Vinci Code, Apollo 13), the film available from this Friday, August 5 on Prime Video pays tribute to those who participated in this unprecedented global effort, sharing their knowledge and know-how.

On June 23, 2018, the ordeal began for the young football team. Due to an untimely monsoon, the water from the underground river rises rapidly in the cave, forcing the boys to venture more than 4 kilometers from the entrance. Then, no sign of life for a week.

Among all the volunteers who came to help the local authorities, two British divers went there. John Volanthen (played by Colin Farrel) and Richard Stanton (played by Viggo Mortensen) are the first to find the young boys…alive, nine days after they disappeared.

John Volanthen and Rick Stanton at the premiere of the National Geographic documentary 'The Rescue', recounting their heroic rescue from Tham Luang Cave, October 5, 2021.
BRYAN BEDDER/Getty Images via AFP John Volanthen and Rick Stanton at the premiere of the National Geographic documentary ‘The Rescue’, recounting their heroic rescue from Tham Luang Cave, October 5, 2021.

BRYAN BEDDER/Getty Images via AFP

John Volanthen and Rick Stanton at the premiere of the National Geographic documentary ‘The Rescue’, recounting their heroic rescue from Tham Luang Cave, October 5, 2021.

As they were preparing to find only inert bodies, they saw them perched on a bank of sediment after six hours of diving. Only, impossible to bring them back for the moment. The two divers are forced to turn around to look for reinforcements.

Drugged, the boys were unconscious during the rescue

In reality, on the outside, among the hundreds of experts from all over the world, nobody knows how to get them out of there alive. In addition to being extremely dangerous, very physical diving requires years of training, and is certainly not an option for children who have not eaten for days.

Keeping them in the cave exposes them to asphyxiation due to the very low oxygen level in the cave, and certain drowning during the next rains. But getting them out would also mean killing them.

On July 5, the tragic death of one of the divers reduced their hopes a little more. Former member of the Thai navy commandos, Saman Gunann died after exhausting his air supply. If a trained man succumbs to this dive, then how can children survive it?

The British see only one solution: inject ketamine into the boys to transport them, unconscious, to the exit. It’s Australian Richard Harris, a 53-year-old anesthetist and diver for over thirty years, who will be in charge.

A mission not without risk: too heavy a dose can cut their breath, while too light a dose can cause a rude awakening in the water, and thus a probable drowning. But once bitten, their bodies are then transported like parcels for hours. On July 10, all were officially evacuated and transported to Chiang Rai hospital.

An agonizing immersion alongside divers

Thirteen Lives offers a new vision to this hyper-mediatized story, in the form of an agonizing immersion alongside the divers, as they find their way through the cavity without any visibility.

They’re certainly not claustrophobic, and we hope you’re not either, because the images are enough to feel cramped. Adding to this the sounds of artificial respiration, those of water and metal hitting against the rock: we may not be in this cave, we only want to get out.

The film does not contain any archival images, inside or outside the cave, despite the large amount of content shot by the journalists present on site. Immersed in the heart of the cavity, in sets reproduced down to the last detail, the film allows you to relive an event that you think you know.

Thai soldiers positioned in the Tham Luang cave, June 26, 2018.
LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP Thai soldiers positioned in the Tham Luang cave, June 26, 2018.

LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP

Thai soldiers positioned in the Tham Luang cave, June 26, 2018.

But Ron Howard recalls many forgotten aspects of this evacuation operation. In particular, it does not fail to highlight the work of local volunteers, led by a young Thai engineer, who managed to divert more than 210 million liters of water towards the cave. And that’s without forgetting the hundred rescuers responsible in part for replenishing the oxygen reserves in the cave.

After a week in hospital, the 12 boys and their coach were able to return home safe and sound. Within days of their rescue, the cave was completely submerged for 8 months of monsoon.

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