His always intimate, profound and poetic yet realistic perspective made him one of the great filmmakers of Hollywood’s last years. Ron Howard he is categorical in his biographies and knows how to extract the purest cinematographic synesthesia from real stories. In Apollo 13 – From Disaster to Triumph to productions like A brilliant mind, Frost/Nixon and Rush: On the Edge of Emotionthe Oscar winner walks with ease in a genre that always catches the audience’s attention, but doesn’t always get the final result right. Thirteen Lives – The Rescue it is yet another extension of the director’s talent for knowing how to explore pain, chaos, torment and conflict in an immersive and exciting way.
The year 2018 brought with it one of the most emblematic moments in recent world history. Twelve boys and their football coach were trapped inside the Tham Luang cave structure during a tour. Heavy rains in the region partially flooded the site, leaving the team of teenagers and their young instructor stranded for a few days. Under unstable weather conditions, due to the onset of the monsoon period, a team of over 1,000 people was needed to ensure that everyone was safely rescued. This movie-worthy journey is accurately reported through the lens of Howardwhich invites the audience to an experience with claustrophobic airs, such is the anguish translated to the screens.
From a script signed by William Nicholson, Thirteen Lives accompanies all the work of the Thai authorities in this mission, highlighting the efforts of the five volunteer divers who operated the rescue, lived here by Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, Joel Edgerton, Tom Bateman and Paul Gleeson. Starring in painful scenes and mostly done underwater, the cast is placed in tricky conditions, recording most of their shots in a meticulous set that recreates some of the cave’s parts, following its topography. With their physical and emotional limits being tested throughout the recordings, Farrell, edgerton, Mortensen, Bateman and Gleeson show an impressive sensitivity in front of the audience, in realistic performances that exude some of the tension that the production process caused them.
Prioritizing also the history of the Thai people, Nicholson and Howard develop their local characters with calm and tranquility, valuing the community that volunteered for the lives of the 12 boys and their coach. In a responsible and dramatically effective way, the plot goes the opposite way of many previous biopics and discards the terrible narrative of the “white savior”, making room for the true story of the rescue to be told from the perspective of those who are part of the village, going far plus the Caucasian volunteers who were genuinely instrumental in the mission.
Giving enough screen time for a multitude of small stories that directly affect the big plot, the biographical drama is exaggeratedly long, but it makes up for its length with an excellent pacing that doesn’t waste time on unnecessary subplots and focuses only on the fundamental elements. With a photograph that makes torrential rains more than a dramatic element, Thirteen Lives – The Rescue shows the sociocultural contrasts existing in the province of Chiang Rai and thrills for its suspenseful load that permeates the main moments. And even in the face of a story whose end we all already know, Ron Howard doesn’t get tired and once again manages to make us vibrate until the last moment.