A review of the new film “Thirteen Lives”

In June 2018 in northern Thailand, the young boys of the Wild Boars junior football team aged 11-16 and their coach went missing in the local caves of Tham Luang. We all remember how -18 days later – they were eventually saved, but the story still seems almost literally incredible. In this film version of the rescue, we know the outcome and yet throughout we are totally gripped by the tension of the tale.

American director Ron Howard and British writer William Nicholson waste no time in offering a back story with the boys entering the cave in the first few minutes and no more visuals of them for an hour. Instead the focus of the film is entirely on the rescue and it is made clear that this was no white-saviour enterprise but a huge collaborative effort with the involvement of some 5,000 people from 17 countries. Inevitably, however, the core of the narrative is the amazing recovery of all the boys and their coach by a hastily-assembled team of five civilian cave divers.

Although there is no triumphalism in this balanced account of the rescue, as a British guy I can’t help taking some quiet pride that the leading members of this team were John Volanthen from Bristol and Richard Stanton from Coventry. Rather oddly these Brits are played by the Irish Colin Farrell and the American Viggo Mortensen respectively and their accents are a bit weird. The many Thai characters speak the local dialect and are subtitled.

Filmed in Australia and Thailand itself, the film strives for authenticity and accuracy and succeeds so well I left the cinema feeling emotionally exhausted. Most people will view this Amazon Prime production at home but you still need to be prepared for a really tense two and a half hours.

A full account of the incident click here


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