Growing up in St. Louis, once a year, our teacher would coordinate a film trip to the Meramec Caverns, which is one of the world’s largest cave formations. Located right outside St. Louis in the Ozark Mountains, it provided shelter to Native Americans for centuries before French colonial miners started exploiting it for its minerals. As cool as that sounds and as cool as it was to visit, my overactive imagination would always wonder what were to happen if for some reason we got trapped inside. Needless to say there aren’t a lot of options as it’s one way out and one way in.
In 2018, unfortunately, the world was about to get the shock of a lifetime. Millions were stunned to learn about a tremendous global rescue effort for a Thai soccer team trapped deep within the Tham Luang cave during an unexpected monsoon.
It was assumed that rescuers would be able to retrieve the boys out, but would they still be alive. Under insurmountable odds, a team of the world’s most skilled and experienced divers, uniquely skilled to navigate the maze of flooded, narrow cave tunnels, join forces with Thai Navy Seals and more than 10,000 volunteers in an effort to rescue the twelve boys and their coach. While entire world watches, this group embarked upon the most challenging dive of their careers, while simultaneously showcasing the limitlessness of efforts prayer, positivity and the human spirit in the process.
Not since Ron Howard’s Backdraft and his documentary Rebuilding Paradise have I seen such intensely, personal and seemingly dangerous shots captured on film. How Howard and cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom navigated and choreographed some of the most claustrophobically cave stalagmite scenes is just mind boggling yet fascinating to behold.
Having said that, it would have been real easy to dramatize this true story into another ‘white savior’ moment. Instead, I have to give kudos to Ron Howard and his team of producers for making a concerted effort to heavily incorporate how involved the Thai government, Navy Seals, farmers and people from all over the world joined forces for one reason and one reason only – the boys. In the midst of an emotionally gripping story, time was taken to infiltrate and explain Thai culture, allow the native language be spoken without an overwhelming need to have everything translated to English and show how this nation of people use the earth and what is has to offer in the most dire of circumstances.
It goes without saying that every single actor was stellar, but this isn’t a film about performances. In a time, where human beings are still struggling to get ahead of a global pandemic, it was nice to screen a project with a glaring reminder of how resilient and strong humankind can be when we bond together for the greater good.
Thirteen Lives is unbelievably inspirational, nail biting story of what happens when sacrifice, love and support comes from the unlikeliest of places with the most satisfying results. Hitting select theaters in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago exclusively for one week on July 29, this film launches globally on Prime Video on August 5.