Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, the documentarians behind Oscar winning Free Solo, have teamed back up with National Geographic to chronicle The Rescue of 12 boys and their football coach in Thailand in 2018. With a whole host of contributors that were involved, claustrophobic reenactments, and footage from the rescue that hasn’t been seen, they have baked up a triumphant documentary that acts as a reminder of the miracles that were achieved during the mission.
Written by Alex Gilston
In the modern day it’s not often that a news story captures the whole world for such a long amount of time. One news story however was an exception, and if you cast your mind back to 2018, for nearly three weeks everyone was captivated by the rescue attempt of 12 Thai boys and their football coach who got stuck in the Tham Luang cave during monsoon season. The documentary follows the mission from Day 1 right up until the end, and spares no detail as we get front row, behind the scenes seats. The documentary makes a big point of the fact that this mission was a massive team effort made up of people from all around the world. The collaborative nature on show gets you on board instantly and rooting for them to succeed.
The Rescue blends together a handful of aspects to tell the story in a compelling and engaging way. Using people who were involved as contributors, news footage from around the world, reenactments with the actual divers involved in the rescue, and also real footage from the rescue. A huge encompassing story will in turn have a lot to juggle but Vasarhelyi and Chin juggle it perfectly, stitching it all together in a way that gives it more impact than some narrative features that have been released this year.
As the days go by in the documentary the tension rises. There’s a real sense that the team who are mounting the mission could fail at any moment even though we already know the outcome of the rescue was highly successful. The reenactments do a perfect job at recreating the claustrophobic feeling you’d get in being in those narrow cave waterways.
Every contributor has their own back story and their own reason for being involved, there is a big focus on the British cave divers that were the main people who did the death defying transportation of the boys whilst they were under anaesthetic. Their stories and involvement make the documentary worth watching. You’ll find that all of the divers have the same thing in common, they all led quite solitary lives because of the danger their hobby gets them in. But ultimately what could have been considered something that separates them from society saved the lives of 13 people.
Considering The Rescue is a true story it is highly unbelievable. To say that the rescue was a miracle would almost be an insult to the divers and the doctor as their knowledge and expertise got them through something that should have been impossible. That being said, faith is interspersed throughout the documentary. The families of the children pray throughout and even invite a Monk from the neighbouring country of Myanmar, who strangely predicted the two losses of life that would eventually occur during and after the mission. It makes it feel like the outcome was always meant to be, but the achievement really can’t be understated. Whatever was meant to be or not, the makers of Free Solo manage to encapsulate this moment in history perfectly, and really drill home that no matter all the wars and crises going on in the world, we are always better off if we work together.