Book, movie and local theatre reviews
(Photo credit: Vince Valitutti, Copyright MGM Pictures(c) )
It’s difficult to remember now, distracted as we are by a global energy crisis, a war in Ukraine, post-Covid NHS waiting lists and a drought inducing summer, but four years ago a real-life heroic drama caught the attention of the entire world.
Twelve schoolboys and their football coach became trapped inside an underground cave in the Thai national park of Tham Luang Nang Non. Torrential rain flooded the cave complex rapidly and for nearly three weeks rescue workers from Thailand and around the world worked against the clock and the weather to get them out before the monsoon rains filled the caves completely. It made for truly gripping and nail-biting news back in 2018 so it was only a matter of time before a dramatization of the story was made.
In the hands of some, such a dramatization might well have resorted to a Bruce Willis type lead, charging muscularly and fearlessly ahead with a suitable rock soundtrack in the background. Thankfully for us, Ron Howard is at the helm of this intense and involving movie. A director renowned for his sensitivity to the story he is telling, Howard elects to keep the storyline as close to the real-life events as possible and despite the audience knowing the final outcome (much as we did with his excellent Apollo 13) the film is replete with moments of real tension and suspense.
With over 5000 people involved over those incredible weeks it would have been impossible to cover all aspects of the rescue operation so the screenwriters and director sensibly focus on three principle players: the schoolboys, the parents and the rescue divers. The mostly Thai cast, gruffly led by Hollywood A-listers Viggo Mortensen (Lord of the Rings, GI Jane) and Colin Farrell (Miami Vice, Horrible Bosses) is simply excellent. You see the gamut of emotions playing out across each of the three players with minimal Tinseltown veneer applied - something not often seen these days.
The underwater sequences (brilliantly conceived by Thai cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom) manage to convey both the physical and psychological challenges faced by the heroic divers. You cannot help but imagine yourself in their shoes (well, flippers) and end up with a knot in your stomach every time. Oh, and if you are remotely claustrophobic, a good cushion to hide behind might be useful!
At the film’s end, you are left gobsmacked at the sheer heroism and tenacity of all involved and reminded that, despite our current global woes, we are still capable of working together for immense good and wondrous achievement.
Thirteen Lives is available to watch now on Amazon Prime and is rated 12+