Thirteen Lives—The Event that brought together the World

Thirteen Lives—The Event that brought together the World

In an age when we feel the world is so divided, a moment of tragedy can bring humanity together pulling on ingenuity, faith, and hope to overcome what seemed to be an impossible obstacle. Based on a true story, Thirteen Lives retells the incredible rescue attempt of a Thai boys soccer team and their coach from out of a flooding cave during the oncoming monsoon season. This exceptionally crafted film, directed by Ron Howard from a screenplay by William Nicholson, depicts in exquisite detail the global rescue by an international team of cave divers and engineers of all thirteen people out of the Tham Luang cave in 2018. The nail-biting race again time and the underwater claustrophobic conditions of the cave make this a thrilling cinematic experience but also a powerful reflection on the self-sacrificing nature of human beings. 


Bringing together an incredible cast of Thai actors, the story focuses on the coach Ekkaphon Chanthawong (Teeradon Supapunpinyo) and his team as they finish their soccer game and before going to dinner at a teammate’s home, the only player who stayed behind. They head to the cave to explore the place they have so many times before, unaware of the early approaching monsoon rains. With inches of water falling within hours, the cave quickly takes in water from the sink holes on the mountain. As the local governor, Narongsak Osatanakorn (Sahajak Boonthanakit) was about to be released from his position, this tragedy keeps him in place to coordinate one of the world’s greatest rescues. He calls on the Thai Navy Seals to help, but the conditions prove too intense for their skills. The Thai government puts out an international call for help. British cave diver legends Richard Stanton (Viggo Mortensen) and John Volenthen (Colin Farrell) respond, unsure of what they will find. 


(L to R) Colin Farrell as John Volanthen, Joel Edgerton as Harry Harris and Viggo Mortensen as Rick Stanton in THIRTEEN LIVES. 

Credit: Vince Valitutti ©2022 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Mortensen and Farrell’s performance was not only formidable but astonishingly authentic. Farrell said the claustrophobic conditions of the cave were recreated for the actors, causing panic attacks and challenging filming situations. But, he says, “It was deeply heartening to be part of a story that…doesn’t need any Hollywoodification. So many nations, so many people actually came together for a shared concern with one common goal in mind. And in a world of such fracture and such discord where everyone seems to be looking for what makes you different from me, what makes us opposing forces as opposed what things make us alike, how are we together, it was just really nice for a brief moment in time for us all to get together with our Thai contingents and tell this story. It was cool!”


Credit: Vince Valitutti / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures© 2022 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Rick and John quickly realized that they needed reinforcements and called on their cave diving colleagues to join them, including anaesthetist Richard Harris (Joel Edgerton). Unbeknown to him, Harris became part of the secretive process to remove the boys and their coach through underwater caves without panicking. After almost 17 days of attempts, the British divers and the Thai Navy Seals enact a plan that was as dangerous as it was ingenius. If you suffer from claustrophobia, you may need to turn away from the screen at this point. Not only do they go through small tunnels, but they do so underwater! Thai cinematographer, Sayombhu Mukdeeprom captures the exhaustive difficulty and authentic realism of a rescue that involved more than 5000 people from seventeen countries!


The sound effects capture the situation with incredible drama and the soundtrack, composed by Benjamin Wallfisch (Hidden FiguresBlade Runner 2049)is reminiscent of the sound design in Dunkirk that increases tension and anticipatory dread, making this a nerve-racking thriller. 


Nophand ’Aon’ Boonyai as Thanet Natisri in THIRTEEN LIVES. Credit: Vince Valitutti

© 2022 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Along with the mostly British group of professional cave divers, the Thai people came out en masse to support their boys. A Thai engineer living in Illinois came out to volunteer his expertise as “the Water guy” gathering locals together to divert water from seeping through mountain crevices into the caves below. Their brilliance along with the self-sacrificing determination of the divers carried out what seemed to be a miraculous rescue. 


Many people called the rescue “miraculous,” an event that defied all odds. Ron Howard said, “It [the rescue] was an object lesson in what is possible…. On my script, what I wrote was, remember everyday, every scene, this is the anatomy of a miracle, because it wasn’t supposed to happen. A miracle is something you can’t imagine actually occurring that does.”

Director Ron Howard on the set of THIRTEEN LIVES with Thai boy actors. Credit: Vince Valitutti

© 2022 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.


This film is one for the whole family to watch as an example of how people come together to support one another in the face of tragedy. Events like these make one realize that there is good in the world. People are good, and that is the beauty of this film. As Joel Edgerton says, “Given the times we’re all going through still…a film that tells a true story that what happens when human beings from all walks of life, put themselves aside, get together to solve a problem in order to help others is a reminder of the true, underlying foundation of the human spirit.” An event such as this, brought the world together to show what is possible when we unite in support of life and human dignity. 


Sr Nancy interviews the director, actors, and real-life divers on the red carpet premiere in Los Angeles







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