Check; ‘Thirteen Lives’ an exciting dramatization | lifestyles

The effort to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand that captured the world’s attention in 2018 is rivetingly depicted in one of prolific filmmaker Ron Howard’s finest directorial efforts.

Opening in theaters this week before landing on Prime Video on August 5, “Thirteen Lives” is a riveting dramatization of that operation, involving Thai officials, experts and Navy SEALs, as well as thousands of volunteers. of all the world. world, including a handful of experienced cave divers.

“Thirteen Lives” benefits from strong performances from its two leads, Watertown High School graduate Viggo Mortensen and Colin Farrell, as two of those jumpers. However, his work takes a backseat to Howard’s deft storytelling, elevated by the work of a myriad of collaborators.

Perhaps none is more important in making this film work as well as it does, in feeling as realistic as it does, than cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom (“Call Me By Your Name”), who helps bring the sequences of diving in the narrow water. Tham Luang cave network filled corridors to harrowing life. Inevitably disorienting at times, these installments are necessarily claustrophobic, thrusting the viewer into the cramped spaces and the do-or-die moments that occur within them.

“Thirteen Lives” begins on June 23, when, after some soccer and before a birthday party for one of the players, the team decides to cycle to Tham Luang in northern Thailand. After entering the cave, a downpour begins, causing the locals to fear that the region’s monsoon season has come early. Soon, it is understood that the children are trapped in the cave and must be rescued if they are to survive.

By the fifth day, British cave diver John Volanthen (Farrell) is contacted, who approaches one of his partners, Rick Stanton (Mortensen), who at first doesn’t think they really need them to fly to Thailand. .

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“I don’t even like children,” he jokes.

Soon, however, they are on the scene and learn how to best navigate this cave, spending hours swimming hundreds of meters. They get a little push from local officials on the ground, which understandably frustrates Rick, who has bravado in the wake of three decades of cave diving.

The possibility that the operation will finally conclude with the recovery of lifeless bodies from Tham Luang grows more inevitable with each passing hour. However, John and Rick find 13 very hungry but alive souls deep in the cave, much to the excitement of them and many people outside the cave, including the children’s parents, and many following the ordeal in the cave. TV.

However, finding them is one thing; getting them out safely is another. And time is ticking, with oxygen levels in the cave becoming one concern, the threat of more rain another.

In fact, while everyone else is celebrating, Rick insists that the group will perish, that there is no way any of them can make the long treacherous journey back to the cave entrance without any training.

That leads him to think of a far-fetched idea involving another partner, Australian diver Dr. Richard Harris (Joel Edgerton), who possesses a skill set that none of the other divers possess. Whether anyone else, including Harris, will agree is another question.

If you followed the story closely when it was happening until July of that year, many of the events presented in “Thirteen Lives” may not be new to you, but that doesn’t make this movie any less exciting and emotionally charged. .

Sure, writer William Nicholson (“Gladiator”) has taken some liberties, who is credited for the story along with Don MacPherson (“The Gunman”), but the film almost never feels like a Hollywood invention. Sure, moments have probably been made up here and there to keep the dramatic momentum going, but they’re organic enough that many fly under the radar.

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“Thirteen Lives” is a nice rebound for Howard, the Academy Award winner for 2002’s “A Beautiful Mind,” who was recently behind the camera for 2020’s disappointing “Hillbilly Elegy.”

This film reminds you of his strong 1995 based on a true story “Apollo 13”, but the realism in “Thirteen Lives” can feel stronger if only because there is no actor as famous as Tom Hanks on the screen.

And while Mortensen (Lord of the Rings movies) and Farrell (Batman) are pretty recognizable actors, they almost immediately disappear in these roles. More importantly, their subtle and consistent performances help anchor the film, which is ultimately an ensemble affair that also benefits from Edgerton (“Zero Dark Thirty”) and Tom Bateman (“Death on the Nile”), as Another diver, Chris Jewel Bateman shines late when Chris goes through a challenging circumstance during the rescue attempt.

Of course, many Asian actors also feature heavily in “Thirteen Lives,” so keep in mind that subtitles are used significantly throughout the film.

Whether you see it in the theater, where the work of Michael Fentum, a sound designer whose credits include “1917,” can also be fully appreciated during the diving scenes, or at home, be sure to check it out.

It is a shocking experience in all the best ways.

‘THIRTEEN LIVES’

3.5 stars (out of 4)

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for strong language and disturbing imagery.

Duration: 2:27

How to watch: In theaters and on Prime Video.

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