On June 23, 2018, twelve soccer players and their coach were trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Thailand. Thirteen Lives tells the story of the rescue effort, starring Viggo Mortensen and Colin Farrell as two cave divers who enter a flooded cave to rescue the boys. Those who remember the worldwide news coverage of the event or those who saw the 2021 documentary The Rescue having knowledge of the film’s story can lead to an enjoyable experience. However, as someone who introduced the event through this film, I found it to be a shocking, disturbing film that succeeds in relating the actual events.
This movie comes to us from Ron Howard, who has proven himself to be one of the most versatile directors working in Hollywood. You can never guess the same person it is addressed to A Beautiful Thought, How the Grinch Stole Christmasand Solo: A Star Wars Story. He was the leader of the great work before. While he recently had some fumbles with Inferno and Hillbilly Elegythis film is Howard’s return to form as a cinematically rich, riveting account of one of the most miraculous events in recent memory.
Howard did an amazing job on this film, with close attention to good design and a strong look at this daring rescue. He uses music sparingly throughout, offering long moments of quiet suspense where you feel immersed in the dark, damp environment of the cave. His direction complements William Nicholson’s screenplay very well, because this movie has a fast first act, which starts the story right away. This is the kind of movie that doesn’t present itself as glamorous or stylish but seems to aim to see all the people do to save the boys trapped in the cave.
You’ll easily forget you’re watching a movie, that’s how invested the story is. Part of that is due to the performances, with the talent of Mortensen and Farrell front and center. Earlier this year, these two did an excellent job Crimes of the Future and The Batman, respectively, and watching them together is something to behold as they get lost in their characters. Everything about this film feels naturalistic rather than performance, creating a tone that works perfectly for the events of the movie. While the characters are sometimes kept at arm’s length, the story is strong enough to keep you watching.
Howard gave this film to those unfamiliar with the events. He focuses more on the rescuers than the boys trapped in the cave, leaving the audience to wonder if they are still alive. This movie builds stakes upon stakes, and so on Thirteen Lives continues, it is clear that the possibilities grow slimmer and slimmer that the men will all come out of the cave. There is a ticking clock that runs throughout the movie as Howard keeps the audience in tune with how long the boys are trapped and how long it takes to swim in the cave.
At two and a half hours long, the movie can feel like a chore of time that could be better spent watching. The Rescue. However, Howard did a lot in this film. A claustrophobic, suspenseful survival film that knows how to tell its story, Thirteen Lives never get bored once. The characters have clear goals, and you will be drawn into the mystery of how they achieve their goals. It’s an interesting story, and it’s one that’s told right.
As ComingSoon policy review explains, a score of 8 equals “Great.” While there are some minor issues, this score means that the art succeeds in its purpose and leaves a memorable impact.
Disclosure: The critic attended the press screening for ComingSoon’s Thirteen Lives review.