Ron Howard certainly delivers a consistently riveting, engaging, incredibly claustrophobic and anxiety inducing affair.
Written by Jack Ransom / July 27, 2022
Based on the staggering true events that occurred in 2018. Directed by Ron Howard, Thirteen Lives sees a rescue mission get assembled in Thailand where a group of young boys and their soccer coach are trapped in a system of underground caves that are rapidly flooding.
I unfortunately only had the most surface level knowledge of what occurred during those 18 days in Tham Luang, as well not having seen the supposedly excellent The Rescue, which also chronicles the events that occurred. However, though somewhat overlong at points, Ron Howard certainly delivers a consistently riveting, engaging, incredibly claustrophobic and anxiety inducing affair that never allows its big name cast members to overshadow the source material.
Though I mention the runtime, the near 2 hour 30 minute length allows for an effectively gruelling process that sees a myriad of elements colliding together that continually sees tensions rise, desperation increase and a genuine sense of potential crushing inevitably that looms over the brief moments of optimism. The film brilliantly divides itself between the divers planning and execution of said plans, the media circus (and potential PR/political nightmare the situation could cause), the fear and desperation of the families, bravery of the boys themselves and the courageous efforts of the many volunteers.
Is it a little overdramatised and intentionally manipulative with some of its music choices and imagery at points? Yes, but really what did you expect? That being said, Howard is a consistently solid filmmaker and is really good at capturing the more grounded and subtle humanity of the moments (honestly was surprised at how emotional I found myself feeling at certain moments), as well as the genuinely claustrophobic anxiety inducing danger of the mission as a whole. The documentary style handheld camera implementation gels nicely with the vast cinematic presentation of the scale of the rescue operation.
A couple of accent slips aside both Colin Farrell and Viggo Mortensen are really good here. Farrell’s composed, optimistic and softer persona, makes for an interesting contrast to Mortensen’s cynical, hard edged demeanour. The pair have great chemistry and you truly get the sense of their established friendship. Joel Edgerton arrives later into the runtime but also delivers a strong performance as a diver/doctor, who is asked to do the unthinkably risky (I won’t say what, because I didn’t know going in and my jaw dropped).
Thirteen Lives is an excellent, informative and at times genuinely nail biting experience. The distribution of the different elements that coalesce to make up the rescue, the quality performances, Howard’s very solid ‘get the job done’ directorial approach certainly will keep you invested throughout the lengthier runtime.