thirteen lives, review, ron howard, joel edgerton

Review: Thirteen Lives

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Ron Howard delivers an honorable, detailed, pulse-pounding retelling of the incredible true events surrounding the Thai cave rescue in 2018, assisted by top-notch performances in what may not only be one of the standout films of the year, but of the director’s lengthy career.

In 2018, a Thai soccer team and their coach became trapped in the Tham Luang cave during an earlier-than-usual start to monsoon season, leading to weeks of global volunteers uniting to rescue them and a daring attempt by some of the world’s most skilled – and gutsy – divers. Howard’s films tend to have a certain feel for them, leaning into the cinematic side at the expense of the core storytelling. Thirteen Lives is an exception, exploring every corner of the incredible true story on which it is based without succumbing to any Hollywood exaggerations. In doing so, the intensity of the rescue slowly builds, the audience hooked on every development. Those familiar with the story, or those who have seen the stunning documentary The Rescue (read our review here), will be familiar with every step the film takes, but it is presented from a personal, integrated angle. Through this lens we are privy to the conversations, arguments, the fears and turmoil of the family and team, and most riveting, the dives. If you are wondering if you are claustrophobic, Thirteen Lives will give you your answer.

I was most impressed with the cast; Viggo Mortensen and Colin Farrell take the lead with the latter a notable exception for his dedicated depiction. Joel Edgerton is likewise solid in support, capturing the angst as the rescuers race against time to explore all options and get the team out. As mentioned, there are a ton of details included that serve as very minor subplots that easily could have been cut out to shorten the lengthy film (clocking in at 2 hours and 27 minutes). While they’re never left unresolved, they aren’t necessary to the overarching retelling. While other moments may have been seen as opportunities to ramp up the drama, they ultimately draw from the established momentum. In the end, I appreciated the care taken to tell the story in such a real, impactful way that highlights the good in humanity.

Thirteen Lives hits limited theaters Friday and Amazon PrimeVideo on August 5th, 2022.

Rating: 4/5

Photo from Variety

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