Thirteen Lives Review | A Great Recount of an Inspiring Effort

Thirteen Lives never loses its momentum when it comes to delivering an equally educational and entertaining feature

Thirteen. That’s how many lives were trapped in the Tham Luang cave network in northern Thailand in June of 2018. It would take an international team of expert cave divers to find the young football team and their coach due to flooding caused by an early kick-off to the monsoon season. And it would unite the world on one important mission. Thirteen Lives isn’t the first to tell this incredible true story, however. In fact, the feature film The Cave premiered in 2019 with a 2021 documentary called The Rescue to follow. Despite being the third to tell this narrative, Ron Howard delivers a fantastic effort that reminds us of the bravery and humanity we’re capable of.

As expected from a film based on real-life events, Thirteen Lives is the type of movie that will easily intrigue viewers. But thanks to Ron Howard’s direction of William Nicholson (Gladiator) and Don Macpherson’s story, it will be easy to stay in tuned and immerse oneself in the inspiring events despite its long two hour and twenty-seven-minute runtime. Suffice it to say, the movie is paced wonderfully, and it balances the anxiety-inducing moments with behind-the-scenes details that could have easily gotten lost had Howard taken a more “Hollywood” approach.

Still of the cast in Thirteen Lives
courtesy of Prime Video

The movie is paced wonderfully.

Despite the film being based on a true occasion, Thirteen Lives never loses its momentum when it comes to delivering an equally educational and entertaining feature. In fact, there are sequences that Howard executes so well that they could easily make viewers put aside their knowledge of the story’s outcome. Simply put, he effectively balances truth, flair, and entertainment in a way that remains respectful to all the parties involved but intriguing for viewers as well.

Some of the best moments in Howard’s adaptation come down to his ability to humanize the cave divers. From the outside looking in, it’s easy to visualize them as heroes and attribute these experts who were there to get the job done as ones who had it all figured out from the start. But thanks to Nicholson’s screenplay, there’s a sense of realism when it comes to the conversations and actions by the cave divers. It was really nice to see the reservations regarding idealistic discussions on their ability to accomplish a close to impossible mission.

Courtesy of Prime Video

Thirteen Lives never loses its momentum…

Rounding out the great retelling is the fantastic cast. It’s hard to pinpoint a standout with every person rising to the occasion to deliver such wonderful performances. But Viggo Mortensen, who plays British cave diver Richard Stanton, and Sahajak Boonthanakit as Governor Narongsak are both special in their respective roles. Sometimes subtlety in such an important narrative works best. And they prove that they were not only cut out for the job, but both excelled at it.

Thirteen Lives is an incredible recount of an extraordinary effort. With an exceptional cast and a well-paced story that balances entertainment and realism, it will be hard to not be emotionally compelled by this inspiring script. Following Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s 2021 documentary, The Rescue, was no easy feat, but Howard delivers in a way that can easily make his feature the go-to if anyone needs a reminder of the incredible bravery and humanity displayed for 18 days straight.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thirteen Lives is available on Prime Video (August 5, 2022) now. Watch the trailer below:

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