Thirteen Lives – Movie Review

Thirteen Lives directed by Ron Howard is based on the true  miracle that united the world.

‘Thirteen Lives’ is quite astonishing due to its attention to detail. It retells the dramatic story of the Tham Luang cave rescue. It was a highly-publicized event where a junior football team was saved from an underwater cave in Thailand. The only thing working against the film is the timing. A high-profile documentary film, ‘The Rescue,’ released just last year, told the same story to much critical acclaim. This gives ‘Thirteen Lives’ the difficult task of proving its worth in a media landscape oversaturated with things to watch, especially when you can see the real faces and actions behind the rescue in a documentary.

Luckily, ‘Thirteen Lives’ is expertly crafted by veteran filmmaker Ron Howard.

He is no stranger to these biographical films (perhaps you’ve heard of a little movie called ‘Apollo 13’). This film features sturdy performances by Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, and Joel Edgerton as the rescuers themselves. The dramatic recreations still manage to bring tension in interesting ways to a scenario that you know the outcome of if you followed the news in any capacity circa June 2018. If you don’t know how they managed to rescue the boys, I’ll spare you the details because it’s truly an astonishing act of human science and perseverance.

The film excels when it emphasizes how many people had to unite to make it all happen.

The Thai Navy SEALs, to the thousands of volunteers, helped divert water on the mountain. This is what the effort is about: humans coming together to figure out the impossible. Yes, much of screen time is spent with the movie stars portraying the real-life divers, but that doesn’t take away from the big picture themes.

Howard creates tension in close-up shots of the divers navigating tight caves and fighting against strong currents. The camera constantly switches to show depleting air gauges on the divers’ tanks. When the divers find relief, so does the audience. Water flowing into sinkholes across the mountains is reflected in the constant water drips in the cave itself, adding to the overall sense of peril these boys are in.

Even if you spent a lot of time watching the news at the time of this event, there is still enjoyment in seeing just how faithful the team was in recreating the events: the bikes that remain against the guardrail at the entrance to the cave serving as a constant reminder that these kids are still inside – or the mass chaos the site was in at the time the cave divers arrived to the scene.


I give Thirteen Lives 4 out of 5 stars. With so much that went into a rescue of this scale, the film earns its 147-minute runtime. It manages to move consistently with enough intensity to make it a riveting watch despite the release of ‘The Rescue’ last year. Don’t think of these two films as being in a battle with each other, but rather make for a great double-feature. Thirteen Lives will receive a limited theatrical release beginning July 29 and will be streaming on Amazon Prime Video beginning August 5.

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Media and Movie Mastermind who co-hosts the Moviegoers Society Podcast and Fresh out the Pod.

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