The daring rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from deep inside a flooded cave in Northern Thailand captured the headlines in 2018, and now in an enthralling and inspiring documentary, “The Rescue,” our hearts as well.
Filmmakers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Oscar winners for “Free Solo” accessed never-before-seen material and included exclusive interviews to spotlight the risky world of cave diving and to convey the enormous outpouring of caring and compassion from the international community.
Even though we know the outcome, dubbed the “Miracle in the Cave” by the global news media, this documentary is a remarkable story of survival, determination, and ingenuity in the face of daunting odds and natural elements.
It’s a story we knew from the news, but not so much the harrowing details, which unfold like an edge-of-your-seat thriller. It’s a race against time that took two weeks to complete, and we feel the clock ticking and the mounting danger, especially as monsoon season nears.
To refresh, after a soccer practice, the boys went on an outing to explore a nearby elaborate system of caves and became trapped. While anxious parents awaited their rescue and fate, the Thai Navy, U.S. Navy Seals, and renowned cave divers combined their know-how for a daring rescue. Along with the Thai government and international leaders, we see the teamwork and plans in this life-or-death scenario.
Many people helped save the boys, and the courage they showed in such a perilous journey is astounding. But the two cave divers who first spotted the boys after 10 days, Rick Stanton and John Volanthen, are true heroes, as they give first-hand accounts of what happened.
It’s a lump-in-your-throat moment when the gaunt-looking youngsters say heartfelt “Thank you” and attempt to keep their spirits up, even though they are hungry and scared.
The film recently won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.
It’s certain to make an impact as a contender we near the annual awards season. But more importantly, it’s a rare success story and an extraordinary account of what humans are capable of in the face of overwhelming adversity.
“The Rescue” is a 2021 documentary directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi. It is rated PG for thematic material involving peril and some language, and the run time is 1 hour, 47 minutes. In select theaters Oct. 15 and will eventually be on the National Geographic Channel (Disney Plus).
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.