Home Movie Reviews ‘Thirteen Lives’ – Review
‘Thirteen Lives’ – Review

‘Thirteen Lives’ – Review


It was an event that captured the world’s attention, and now the heroic and seemingly impossible rescue of thirteen young lives from the 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue is brought to audiences in Academy Award winner Ron Howard’s Thirteen Lives. And this film will have you on the edge of your seat thanks to its claustrophobic thrills.

A rescue mission is assembled in Thailand where a group of young boys and their soccer coach are trapped in a system of underground caves that are flooding.

The 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue was an event that captured the world’s attention as twelve school-aged soccer players and their coach were caught in a sudden monsoon and seemingly lost in the depths of a harrowing cave. With the water rising, and hope beginning to fade a collection of skilled oddballs and adrenaline junkies were brought in to help find a miracle, and their heroism under pressure would lead to one of the greatest events in human history. This is the setting that Ron Howard brings us into in Thirteen Lives, and with his meticulous attention to detail and almost documentarian-like focus, he puts audiences right at the core of this story.

As a filmmaker, Ron Howard has been responsible for some of the best films of the last two decades. From Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man and Rush, he’s a filmmaker who can put his audience right into the centre of the action. He also has a real craft of capturing true-to-life stories and characters, and this is exactly the approach he brings to Thirteen Lives. In his narrative, Howard finds a great split between his focus on the team of rescue divers who are brought in throughout the world to help coordinate the diving mission, along with the central Thai characters who saw it as their duty to rescue the boys. From start to end the clock is ticking with Thirteen Lives and Howard ramps up the severity of the narrative as minute by minute ticks by and you wonder how the hell these divers are going to reach the trapped boys.

As a cinematic experience, Thirteen Lives will have you on a razor’s edge. Howard’s approach to capturing the action of this unfolding rescue in a minute-by-minute stance creates a brewing sense of paranoia and intensity in the audience. Just how the hell are the divers and the Thai government going to get these kids out? Along with the bureaucratic back and forth, and measures of control and micro-management amidst an operation that is growing ever more dangerous by the moment are the film’s intense underwater scenes that capture the diver’s rescue action. Dark, claustrophobic and dread-inducing these moments make for an intense watch and Howard captures both a ‘fear of the water’ quality, along with the skill, calm and professionalism of the divers who took on this mission.

With his principal cast, Ron Howard completely lucks out with the presence of Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell and Joel Edgerton as rescue divers Richard Stanton, John Volanthen and Dr Richard ‘Harry’ Harris. Each of the performers does a great job in realising their character with Mortensen capturing the standoffish yet peak professionalism of Stanton, Farrell bringing a parent’s concern and committed focus to courage as Volanthen and Egerton being the outsider who takes a gamble as Harris. The three men act well together and complement each other in their performances. Thirteen Lives benefits greatly from their addition to the cast and these actors’ commitment to the men they portray and the story they’re bringing to life.

Thirteen Lives is far and away one of the most heroic and awe-inspiring pieces of film that you’ll see all year. It’s a phenomenally intense watch and you’ll be spellbound by the narrative, performances, cinematography and intensity of this story and it’s honouring one of the greatest achievements in human history. So hold your breath tight and prepare to go under because Thirteen Lives is one incredible watch.

Thirteen Lives is now streaming on Prime Video.

Image: Thirteen Lives