Thirteen Lives (2022)

Genres - Drama, Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Biography  |   Release Date - Jul 29, 2022 (USA), Jul 29, 2022 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 142 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom, United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Travis Norris

Putting together a film about a real-life, unbelievable story is not an easy thing to do. When a group of Thai soccer players got trapped in a flooded cave, it captured the attention of the entire world. Ron Howard (Cinderella Man) captures this seemingly impossible rescue mission on screen, with respect and reverence for the actual events. Thirteen Lives is suspenseful, heartbreaking, heroic, and real. It is not often an audience will likely know the ending of a story before going in, and still be on the edge of their seats throughout. Howard provides a mesmerizing look into what happened to these boys, as well as the heroes that risked their lives to help.

On June 23, 2018, a Thai boys soccer team entered a local cave with their coach. The group was just looking to do a little spelunking before going to a birthday party. While in the cave, however, a huge storm starts up, and the boys are flooded in. When their parents realize what has happened, they get the authorities involved. Everyone from the Thai Navy SEALs to volunteer cave divers join the search, and eventually, they find the boys - alive. With oxygen levels running low, and the situation only getting worse, a team of volunteer divers risks their lives to save the boys.

Thirteen Lives has a strong cast, and fortunately they never take anything away from the story. Colin Farrell, Viggo Mortensen, and Joel Edgerton play as the core group of volunteer divers, and they do very well. Farrell is the optimistic, hopeful one of the bunch, evened out by Mortensen's consistent pessimism. Howard knew that this film wasn't about the cast, and really tried to focus more on the story as a whole. Seeing the impact on the local village, it really did take thousands of people to rescue these boys, not just a group of selfless divers.

The film fails only in having some moments that run a bit too long, extending what should have been tight, focused scenes. Luckily, the plot is so mesmerizing that many may not even notice.

In this case, the truth feels stranger than fiction, and Thirteen Lives reflects that perfectly. This movie is emotionally intense, and at times exhausting, but the story is worthy and riveting. By the end, viewers will have a new appreciation for the rescue mission that captured the entire world, and the massive effort it took to save these boys. It feels like Howard just wanted to give everything room to breathe, and he knew that he didn't need to do anything special to captivate an audience.