Ron Howard is a survival drama expert. Apollo will remind anyone who has watched 13 how beautifully and chillingly he captured the hopelessness and claustrophobia of the situation. Believe it or not, he’s done it again with his Thirteen Lives and feels he’s done better this time around. The vacuum of space is replaced by the ruggedness of water, but the excitement, thrills, and nerve-wracking terror are all here. Veteran filmmakers prove that it doesn’t take huge budgets, VFX and superheroes to make a great movie. Just throw in a good story and a strong cast and you’ve managed to deliver a masterpiece of what Thirteen Lives really is.
Thirteen Lives is based on the infamous 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue. In the incident, 12 children and their soccer coach were trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand for his three weeks. Despite the best efforts of the Thai military, the children remained trapped for days, and it was the efforts of experienced cave divers from the UK and Australia to finally reach and rescue them. The film, which hits Amazon Prime Video on Friday, August 5th, tells the story of this extraordinary rescue from the perspective of divers, children and their families, and a hapless local government.
I will admit that I was apprehensive when I first learned about this film. It’s so easy to take a movie about a Third World tragedy with a white actor and turn it into a story about a “white savior.” But Ron Howard skillfully sidesteps it. He treats history and country with the utmost sincerity and respect, and also emphasizes the role of local authorities and residents.
This is not the story of four white men teaching Thais how to do their jobs, but his four ordinary men helping their communities save children. The USP of the film is set. Much of this takes place in an underwater, claustrophobic, dark cave, with rescue teams racing against time and nature to save the trapped team and their trainers. Still, no scenes are confusing or too dark. The camerawork is clear and the dialogue is consistent. Even if the dialogue is in Thai, you can easily follow the plot. And the action is breathtaking. Every underwater sequence is different so it never feels repetitive. The background music and the sound of the constant rain add to the intensity and urgency of the scene. Almost full package.