The Rescue

In theaters Oct. 15 and will stream on Disney Plus (National Geographic channel) in the future.

KENTS TAKE:

This harrowing documentary produced by National Geographic Documentary Films follows the unlikely rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Northern Thailand in 2018.

The Wild Boar soccer team decides to go down into a local cave to explore, when monsoon season arrives early, trapping them deeply in a remote spot. Parents and local authorities knew they were over their heads, so the Thai Navy SEALS were called as well as spelunking expert Vern Unsworth.

As the rains continue, Vern realizes that the SEALS do not have cave diving expertise, so he contacts two of the worlds most experienced cave divers. John Volanthan and Rick Stanton arrive only to be told that they cannot dive. But soon after, the SEALS discover they are not equipped for this type of exploration and reconsider John and Rick’s expertise.

Cave diving is a very particular skill. One must push away the concept that you are diving in large areas with no place in which to surface. You have mountains of stone above you and are often diving in disorienting utter darkness. Rick and John have become experts at their hobby simply due to an intense passion for the sport – this passion may now allow them to save lives.

Rick and John’s dive takes them through four chambers and past a T-junction, much further than anyone else could go. They fully expect to find the bodies of the boys along the way, but they do not.

Struggling to fight the monsoon rains by pumping as much water from the cave as possible, this rescue became an international event. Consultants from all disciplines arrive to help in any way possible, but access to the cave is so difficult that only a few can dive.

Jim and Rick even briefly give up, attempting to return home, convinced that the boys have drowned and being reluctant to risk their lives and those of other divers.

They soon return and ask to dive again, this time pushing the limits of their air and resolve. It pays off when they find the boys in a remote section trapped by over 1800 meters of submerged cave.

The elation of finding the boys is tempered by the realization that there is no feasible way to get the boys out.

This riveting documentary immerses viewers immediately as parents find their children’s backpacks and bicycles outside the cave. Throwing a myriad of information at us, it takes a few minutes to settle in and catch up.

The divers educate viewers that cave divers use 1/3 of their air to go out, 1/3 to come back and keep 1/3 in reserve. Initially, the first 1/3 of the story is presented with information about the region and the individuals who will play an important role in the rescue. The next 1/3 recounts the hurdles with which rescuers wrestled and the final 1/3 recounts the rescue. Although the first 1/3 offers little with which to anchor our emotions, the final act of the film is not only very emotional, but also reflects the set up as an inspiring international operation that spurred teamwork, camaraderie and trust among many countries, organizations and people.

Directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelvi deftly balance the technical side of introducing the dilemma, the hurdles and those involved with the tension of a life-threatening event and the resulting remarkable rescue. The maps of the cave, the description and explanation of the dangers of cave diving, as well as the ensuing technical operation to divert the monsoon rains away from the cave are fascinating. Yet, the heart and soul of this documentary is the undying human spirit and the dedication and sacrifice these rescuers give to attempt a perilous rescue.

“The Rescue” is an excellent documentary shining a light on a dark 18 days of stress, danger and ultimately salvation.

LYNN’S TAKE:

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.