Ron Howard’s Beautiful Thai Cave Rescue – The Hollywood Reporter

The Most Haunting Frame in Ron Howard’s Thirteen lives shows a busy convoy of bicycles rushing along a metal fence leading into Tham Luang Nang Non cave in northern Thailand. They belonged to 12 footballers (between the ages of 11 and 16) and their 25-year-old coach who decided to go exploring for a muggy day in late June 2018. What the team thought would be a A short post-practice excursion over familiar terrain turned into an 18-day nightmare. Hours after the team entered the underground karstic cave, it flooded.

Most people know the story of the soccer team rescue mission, even if they are vague about the details. The news thrilled the international community and attracted an empathetic, captivating audience. Thirteen lives not the first attempt to tell the story. In 2019, Tom Waller premieres his uneven documentary The cave at the Busan International Film Festival. Two years later, directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (Free Solos) be revealed RescueAn engaging documentary that includes hours of never-before-seen footage.

Thirteen lives

Key point

A narrative that is rather tense and lacks depth.

Release date: Friday, July 29 (MGM); Friday, August 5 (Amazon Prime Video)
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, Joel Edgerton, Tom Bateman, Paul Gleeson, Sahajak Boonthanakit
Manager: Ron Howard
Writer: William Nicholson (screenplay), Don MacPherson (screenplay)

Rated PG-13, 2 hours 22 minutes

With Thirteen livesHoward, along with storywriters Don MacPherson and William Nicholson, strives for their own worthy retelling by focusing on the boys, their families, and the coordination needed among volunteers to save them. . It’s a limited re-enactment of events, a drama that, at times, feels like a documentary. But if Howard’s decision to feature Thai characters in this incredible story is the right one, then the director’s approach takes on a strange rigidity and self-consciousness – inescapable. Kissing the fast-paced, no-nonsense heroic characters is his forte with more emotionally textured storytelling. The result is clumsiness that makes the film, for all the surreal tension and bravado it portrays, feel no urgency or surprise.

Opening scenes of 12 boys engrossed in playing soccer in different positions Thirteen lives like a movie about the hearts and humanity of the subjects. The nail-biting action of the rescue leaves us hating as we watch the boys’ lives, hours before they venture into the cave, unfold. Their play scenes intertwine with the set of shoots of bulbous clouds whizzing across the sky, sketching mountainous landscapes and wind blowing through verdant farmland. (Primary shooting took place in Australia because of COVID-19 restrictions, but glimpses of the natural world, along with clips of townspeople, were taken in Thailand.)

Howard focuses early in the film on the nearby town of Pong Pha and its inhabitants instead of five white divers – Rick Stanton (Viggo Mortensen), James Volanthen (Colin Farrell), Dr. Richard Harris (Joel Edgerton), Chris Jewell (Tom Bateman) ) and Jason Mallinson (Paul Gleeson) – credited with saving the boys. It’s a move between Thirteen lives from completely succumbing to a story about a white savior.

Howard describes the tension between Rick and James – the first of international cave divers to arrive in the rural province – and Thai Navy SEAL officials in a clear way. The two Britons were outsiders, and their initial efforts to help were met with resistance. Rick’s careless and cynical attitude towards the traditions of the inhabitants of Pong Pha are aggravating factors. James is somewhat reluctant to mediate between his longtime friend and Thai officials, plaguing Rick’s pessimism with his own sense of optimism.

DP Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s (Memoria, call me by your name) unobtrusive cinematography shields the film from the authoritarian and condescending approach often displayed when a white woman encounters a subject of color. However, some occasional viewing angle changes reduce the overall sensitivity of the film. When Rick and James, after hours of swimming through the narrow and flooded passages of the cave, met the boys, they were excited. They started filming as evidence for the people waiting at the entrance. There’s a brief moment or two when we see the boys from the divers’ perspective; Your direct way that Rick and James recorded them felt uncomfortable, intrusive.

It doesn’t help when parts of Thirteen lives focusing on the boys’ families feels too researched, too constrained to fully compensate for the moments that are tacitly yielded to white eyes. Pattrakorn Tungsupakul, who plays the boy’s mother Chai, can only do so much with a role that requires her to frantically switch between nervous looks and fervent prayers. A bit of the character’s potential is seen when she berates government officials for not giving enough answers to parents. I wish I had more time to spend on slices this stories or even scenes of how the boys survived, rather than the discomfort the divers felt with the press.

Building up the emotional lives of the parents could also have a better story pacing, which goes a bit tedious – such an unconventional way, given Howard’s usual preference for storytelling. fast and efficient – up to the rescue operation. When the international team of divers was assembled, Thirteen lives wake up. The suspense inherent in planning and executing the rescue stimulates a sleepy story, invigorating the relationships between divers, especially Mortensen and Farrell’s characters. The layers of fraternity and competition between them are illuminated as they enter the water, navigating tunnels in dark caves.

Like Bifurto Abyss in Il Buco, the remarkable film by Italian director Michelangelo Frammartino about a group of young accelerators exploring one of the deepest caves in the world, Tham Luang Nang Non is its own character – a force Quality is solved with patience and intelligence. Production designer Molly Hughes’ reproduction of a cave interior enlivens the second half of the film, unfolding in its twisting passages. Sound is equally important to the various effects of the film. When Howard got back to Benjamin Wallfisch’s better score, the dive scenes were more effective. The sounds of water crashing against the walls of the cave or the rapid breathing through an oxygen mask evoke the suffocating nature of swimming through unknown territory more vividly than any music. maybe.

On the ground, the volunteers who came to help save the boys were also busy with work. Howard has taken seriously and honestly the other roles crucial to the rescue, from the paramedics stationed at the entrance to the Thai engineer who appealed to local farmers to help pump rainwater out of the cave. Even now, years later, that level of teamwork is breathtaking, and Howard’s choice to document those efforts brings Thirteen lives its own kind of sustaining power.

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