Review: ‘Thirteen Lives’ gets lost in sprawling rescue story

  • 3 min read
  • Aug 03, 2022

Review: ‘Thirteen Lives’ gets lost in sprawling rescue story

This image released by Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures shows Patracorn "Playing" Tungsupakul, foreground, in a scene from "Thirteen lives." (Vince Valitutti/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures via AP)

This image released by Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures shows Pattrakorn “Ploy” Tungsupakul in the foreground, in a scene from “Thirteen Lives.” (Vince Valitutti/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures via AP)


Twenty-seven years ago, Ron Howard’s “Apollo 13” praised men with the right things — courage and quiet grace under pressure. This summer, he returned to that magic number for a similar rescue story, but swapped the vastness of space for a deep-earth movie.

Thirteen Lives is a dramatization of what happened in July 2018, when 12 boys and their soccer coach were trapped in a flooded limestone cave in Thailand for several weeks. Like his space flip, it takes a lot of in-flight work to take them out.

This particular cave rescue is natural fodder for the show: a group of cave divers from Europe gathered alongside Thai seals and hundreds of farmers, engineers and helpers for a happy ending – all the boys and their instructor survived. (This is a spoiler if you’ve been in a literal cave for the past four years.) “Thirteen Lives” is available Friday on Prime Video.

Previously, an illuminating documentary – “Salvation” from the Oscar-winning filmmaking team “Free Individual” consisting of E. Chai Wassarhelly and Jamie Chin, who used body footage from the rescue camera — and a six-episode Netflix miniseries. The first time in September

Each has a focus — “Rescue” explores how two slightly eccentric middle-aged British men end up at the center of the operation, and the upcoming Netflix series tells the story from the perspective of the trapped kids.

Howard and screenwriter William Nicholson admirably widen the scope, including everything from crazy families and religious figures to the governor, as well as how a water engineer helps rescue efforts by diverting rain from a cave and farmers sacrificing their crops. have increased Flooding

The overall effect is a more inclusive storytelling—no white savior narrative, great—but at the cost of a flattening of the narrative. There are bunches of scattered heroes everywhere – no bad guys at all, unless you want to blame the rain – and that means a lack of subtlety or a midway point. Neither the divers, nor the children, nor the government officials, nor the families and volunteers are really noticed and remain as dark as the submerged cave for miles.

There’s also some pointless dialogue and vague Hollywoodization, such as the heavy use of cellos when things get dramatic and the appearance of stationary ambulances. “This could be a long night,” the governor says loudly at the beginning of the crisis. And the film’s international stars, Viggo Mortensen, Joel Edgerton and Colin Farrell, try hard to be straight-up Biscuit Cave enthusiasts.

“I have zero interest in dying,” declares Mortensen in dialogue that could be lifted from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Farrell has his own solutions: “Crazy is better than nothing, and we’ve got nothing,” he says when rescuers discuss various rescue solutions.

The film gets better when the audience is immersed in the flooded cave, and Howard can rely on production designer Molly Hughes and director of photography Sayombhu Mukdeeprom. Here you can hear masks rustling, metal cylinders on rock and divers in tight spaces, the camera impossibly close. Most of the movie was shot in Australia, not Thailand.

At the heart of the film is the rather insane and brilliant idea of ​​heavily drugging the children before pulling them out, essentially turning each one into a neutral, malleable weight in the few hours it takes to pull them out. They can be bent and relaxed regularly. “They are the packages and we are just the deliverers,” says one aid worker.

This temporary, indirect solution means the difference between life and death, and it’s also what kept Howard’s animation “Apollo 13” going. Unfortunately, this underground bar, he just seems to be the delivery man. Our advice: turn on the documentary instead.

“Thirteen Lives,” a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for “strong language and disturbing imagery.” Duration: 147 minutes. Two out of four stars.


MPAA definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some content may be inappropriate for children under 13.




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