2021, Movies

The Rescue (2021, Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi)

This is an absolutely incredible documentary about the 2018 rescue of a Thai soccer team from a cave in northern Thailand. It’s one of those documentaries that succeeds simply because the story it is telling is so unbelievably incredible. I was vaguely aware of this at the time – I don’t watch the news – so I really had no idea how hard this was.

If you had no idea this happened the title tells you everything you need to know so I’m going to assume I don’t have to say SPOILERS!

This really feels like something too incredible to be real. A team of boys are trapped so far into a cave system as to be unreachable. And then an international team of the world’s best cave divers are assembled in order to save them. And they do. (It’s funny how much the team assembly thing feels like it was written for a movie. It also is hilarious how many of them are British. Are they really the world’s best?)

When they found the kids so early in the movie I realized there must be a whole lot more to the rescue than just finding them. As someone who has only ever been in a few (dry) caves in my life, I had no idea how hard this would be.

It feels like multiple miracles had to happen here. They found the kids. They were alive when they found them. They didn’t die over the days it took them to get them out. And then their crazy plan actually worked.

The documentary is conventionally told, with talking heads, historical footage and what I believe are reenactments subtly integrated in with the historical footage. One thing that is really refreshing, though, is how honest the drivers are about how they felt and the fact that some of them gave up early on and had to essentially be cajoled into continuing. That’s fairly rare, lots of people wouldn’t admit that.

It’s absolutely riveting despite knowing the outcome. My one major criticism is how focused it is on the westerners. I understand they performed the actual rescue, but it would have been nice to hear from a few more Thais.

Watch this. But turn it off before the terrible song over the credits.


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