Thirteen Lives Review

The Plot

The astonishing true story of a young soccer team in Thailand who became trapped in the terrifying depths of the flooded Tham Luang Nang Non cave and the fearless team of divers desperately trying to bring them back to their families on the surface as the watching world held its breath.

The Good

Ron Howard brings his peerless directing talents to bare on yet another iconic true story. Just as he previously turned the Apollo 13 mission into a piece of Oscar worthy big screen drama, he succeeds again in breathing tense life into the struggles of a vast international rescue team to do the impossible and retrieve 13 young boys and their coach from the depths of the earth.

Howard’s direction deftly balances authenticity with emotional pathos. The film combines gripping re-enactment of the rescue with subtle exploration of the profoundly emotional journey of the boys, their families and the rescue team. It’s a constant tribute to the power of hope to conquer fear and seemingly impossible challenges.

The film’s excellent cast lead by stars Viggo Mortenson, Colin Farrell and Joel Edgerton all deliver outstanding performances that do true justice to the real life heroes they portray. Their eagerness to largely shun stunt performers in favour of genuinely plunging into the murky underwater world of the caves gives the film a critical added layer of reality. They also do a fantastic job of reminding audiences that their characters aren’t fearless super humans, but merely ordinary people desperately trying to use their accomplished expertise to prevent unspeakable tragedy.

In sharp contrast to the costume clad comic book heroism more typically celebrated on screen, this film provides a poignant and tense reminder of the reality of those who find themselves called by circumstances to face up against unspeakable odds.

Perhaps even more importantly this film doesn’t reductively seek to simplify the agonisingly long and complex rescue process by merely focusing on the divers physically tasked with extracting the boys from the caves. The film documents and celebrates the full scope of the massive multi-national team of thousands of volunteers, experts, officials and locals that worked tirelessly to help the boys survive and making saving them even a possibility.

In particular the film stands as a fitting tribute to those who did lose their lives and made other immeasurably huge sacrifices for the sake of rescuing these children. The film never seeks of sanitise the true cost of accomplishing this impossible feat of salvation.

Even for those who remember following the unfolding drama of the rescue via the constant global media coverage this film remains an important and rewarding experience. The film reveals much about the rescue that will astonish and inspire audiences even further. It’s a gripping and revelatory first-hand account of a ‘story’ which has already captured the hearts of people across the globe.

The Bad

Anyone that suffers from claustrophobia will find the film’s intensely realistic portrayal of the terrifyingly cramped and constantly perilous experience of diving 2.5 miles through submerged caves to be a deeply uncomfortable experience. In truth even those who aren’t overly sensitive to cramped spaces will mostly find themselves squirming uncomfortably the first time the film follows the diving teams underwater. It’s simply impossible not to have a strong reaction to the daunting dangers the rescue team faced constantly during the weeks of rescue work.

While the film’s entire purpose is to share that authentic experience with an audience, it will be unavoidably overwhelming at times for some people.

It’s undeniably important for people to understand the reality of this astonishing rescue, but this celebration of hope and heroism does require a willingness to endure rather than just be entertained.

The Ugly Truth

Thirteen lives is a masterclass in suspense and hope from one of Hollywood’s very best directors. An all-star cast breathes astonishing life into one of the most compelling tales of modern day heroism. Claustrophobic, breath-taking and simply brilliant this is true five star drama that urgently demands to be seen on.


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