Rescue, The (2021)

The Oscar-winning directors of ‘Free Solo’ tackle with lucidity and suspense the incredible international rescue efforts of a group of Thai boys trapped deep in a flooded cave back in 2018.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,297

Dir. Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi & Jimmy Chin
2021 | USA/UK | Documentary | 107 mins | 1.85:1 | English & Thai
PG (passed clean) for thematic material involving peril and some language

Plot: A chronicle of the enthralling, against-all-odds story that transfixed the world in 2018: the daring rescue of twelve boys and their coach from deep inside a flooded cave in Northern Thailand.
Awards: Won People’s Choice Award (Toronto)
International Sales: Dogwoof (SG: Anticipate Pictures)

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Rescue Efforts; Cave Diving; Courage
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: The Projector
Spoilers: No

Fresh from their Oscar win for Free Solo (2018), Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin team up again for another documentary about the triumph of the human spirit, courage and determination. 

Here the focus is on the collective rather than an individual scaling the impossible heights of nature, as the husband-and-wife filmmaking duo tackles the harrowing event that riveted the world back in 2018: the Thai cave rescue of twelve young boys and their football coach who became trapped deep within the Tham Luang cave as the waters rose when the monsoon season came unexpectedly early. 

Battling against time, an international team of experts, including as prominently profiled, a group of cave divers with special skills, summoned the willpower, intelligence and courage needed to make the impossible possible, before the real force of torrential rains floods the cave entirely, drowning the boys. 

“We may be the only ones that ever see them.”

The Rescue remains heart-stopping despite knowing the outcome, as it tracks the entire ordeal with lucidity and suspense.  This is the mark of a good documentary, which is to allow us to vicariously experience what it must have felt like to be in everyone’s shoes—be it the trapped boys, the rescuers, and countless volunteers assisting in the mission. 

Accompanied by footage obtained from body cameras worn by the divers as they try to locate the boys, the film is emotional and life-affirming, but not without its moments of pessimism and dread. 

It was the World Cup when this happened—I still remember distinctly the bittersweet feeling of celebrating and enjoying the football matches while at the back of my head, praying for a miracle.  The boys did eventually see France lift the World Cup, the best gift for all concerned. 

Grade: B+


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