'Thirteen Lives' Review: Ron Howard's Thai cave rescue film is a riveting piece of cinema

Based on 2018's Tham Luang Non cave rescue, 'Thirteen Lives' is a well-directed and well-acted movie that keeps everyone on their toes


                            'Thirteen Lives' Review: Ron Howard's Thai cave rescue film is a riveting piece of cinema
Joel Edgerton, Colin Farrell, and Viggo Mortensen in 'Thirteen Lives' (MGM/Amazon)
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In June 2018, twelve members of the junior association football team and their coach entered the Tham Luang Non-cave in Chiang Rai Province in Thailand and got trapped due to continuous rains and rising water levels. An extraordinary rescue operation was started to take those boys out of the cave and people from all around the world began to pray for their safety. Ron Howard’s brings this exceptional story to the screen with the survival film ‘Thirteen Lives’ starring Viggo Mortensen and Colin Farrell in pivotal roles.

‘Thirteen Lives’ is not the first project that has been primarily focused on the rescue operation and all the earlier titles have been really amazing. However, there’s something special about the Amazon-backed movie that keeps us hooked to our screens despite knowing the outcome.

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As far as the story is concerned, two of the best British cave divers are authorized by the government to travel to Thailand and help the authorities in getting the boys out of the cave. Richard Stanton (Viggo Mortensen) and John Volanthen (Colin Farrell) reach Thailand to take a look at how difficult it is to reach the point where the boys are located. However, the most important thing to know is if they are still alive or not. Both divers get to the T-junction and return to the entrance of the cave because of the rising water levels and no cable support. The next day, they take the cable and finally reach the place where the boys are located. Luckily, every single one of them is alive, but their health is deteriorating. When they return, everyone is happy that the boys are alive. However, due to continuous rain, it was impossible to resume the rescue operation. Different methods were tried to pump out the water and different plans were made to get everyone out safely.

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A still from 'Thirteen Lives' (MGM/Amazon)
A still from 'Thirteen Lives' (MGM/Amazon)

‘Thirteen Lives’ is somewhat similar to the 2018 BAFTA-nominated documentary ‘The Rescue’ and follows the same story. However, there’s a stark difference between both movies. The Ron Howard directorial is more sober and efficient than the documentary and shows every aspect of the operation with equal importance. Some stories are really complex to be told and this was one of them, but Howard’s experience in filmmaking helped him tackle this sensitive story with precision and compassion.

As far as acting is concerned, every single cast member has done a phenomenal job in their respective roles. Mortensen shows why he is one of the greatest actors of this generation and portrays Rick Canton in the most extraordinary way possible. He knows how difficult the situation is and doesn’t hold back in showing everyone the real picture. However, when he’s inside the water, he’ll do anything to save the boys. On the other hand, Colin Farrell as John Volanthen is equally good. The chemistry between the film’s lead actors is mesmerizing and they effortlessly click together. Meanwhile, Joel Edgerton as anesthetist Dr. Richard Harris continues his golden run with the movie.

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Colin Farrell, Joel Edgerton, and Viggo Mortensen in 'Thirteen Lives' (MGM/Amazon)
Colin Farrell, Joel Edgerton, and Viggo Mortensen in 'Thirteen Lives' (MGM/Amazon)

All Thai actors -- Sukollawat Kanarot, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Teeradon Supapunpinyo, Sahajak Boonthanakit, and Nophand Boonyai – are brilliant.

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All in all, ‘Thirteen Lives’ is a suspenseful, compassionate and a disciplined film that sees Ron Howard returning to form. It is a moving film and even though we know the outcome, the drama is beautifully crafted and makes you feel tensed for everyone. A well-constructed, well-directed, and a well-acted movie that never loses its grip and mesmerizes you with a lot of inspirational stuff.

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'Thirteen Lives' premieres exclusively on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, August 5.