By: Michael Walsh
“Last seen nine days ago, twelve boys, and their coach, are trapped in the flooded caves.”
The world was gripped when a genuinely Herculean effort was undertaken in 2018 to rescue 12 Thai boys and their football coach from a flooded cave in northern Thailand. It was an incredible true-life tale of collaboration and innovation to bring about the salvation of these 13 lives. Due to the stirring nature of the events, it was only a matter of time before a dramatisation would be assembled. Thirteen Lives came to be with a large cast of Thai and non-Thai actors and Ron Howard (Apollo 13) at the helm.
The film is technically impressive, as it is captured with claustrophobic underwater cinematography that includes an immersive sound design. Then to build the massive large-scale camp recreation at the cave opening, the whole film becomes an immersive and gripping experience. Howard’s decision to approach the story as a methodical thriller-procedural allows the film to feel expansive and inclusive of all the different threads at play. Still, with so many people involved, the attention given to details diverts attention away from depth and development.
Farrell and Mortensen deliver sturdy performances, and neither could be called the lead, as this truly is an ensemble dedicated to championing the teamwork that occurred.
While many will draw comparisons between this and the documentary The Rescue, it feels as if each has its unique angle, and Thirteen Lives delivers a broader perspective. In contrast, the documentary spends more time on the divers, and the upcoming Netflix docu-series will profile the Thai boys. This is where Howard was a great choice to direct this, and it’s great to see him bounce back from one of his worst to one of his new bests.
Thirteen Lives is a claustrophobically captured survival epic that’s impressive in scale and inspiring in scope. The film captures the near superhuman rescue of a Thai football team in a breathtakingly assembled film committed to honouring the power of collaboration.
The Work of the Body
One of the highlighted moments of the rescue effort was the vast volunteer turnout that made it all possible. People from near and far gave of their time, resources, and in one Thai Navy SEALs case, his life to helping save the soccer team.
The Bible often speaks of the benefits of working together towards a common goal. Yet, it warns against plans that glorify ourselves and are not God-like at the Tower of Babel. In the Christian life, our teamwork is modelled upon a body and its various parts. One where Christ is the head and His glory is the goal. Followers of Christ were created and proposed to work together for God’s glory, and His name deserves the utmost praise.
In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy. – 1 Corinthians 12:25-26
All images: Movie stills
About the author: Michael Walsh is a Missions Engagement Minister in Sydney, and an avid film fan. Growing up constantly either renting movies from the local video store, or buying movies with his pocket money to add to his collection, his love of film is surpassed only by his love of God, and his desire to make the Gospel known to all the ends of the earth.