Several desperate groups work against the clock to free a team of 12 boys and their coach trapped in a flooding cave in The Rescue.
On a typical Saturday afternoon, 12 members of the Wild Boars youth soccer team joined their 25-year-old assistant coach on a quick excursion to a popular local cave complex. While caves can sometimes be dangerous, the boys had all been there countless times before. The only real danger was flooding, but it would be at least another month until the yearly monsoon season arrived. Unfortunately for them, the rains came early to Northern Thailand that year.
As greiving parents stood by helplessly, critical days flew by without progress. No one even knew if any of the 13 were still alive, and it soon became clear that no one had any clue how to reach them, let alone free them.
This unforgettable, against-all-odds news story is brought back into full focus by directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, the team that previously wowed audiences with 2018’s Free Solo. The curious thing about this story is that it’s one of many that you may think that you know. Chances are that you’re not even close. The details behind the story are far more complex and fantastical than expected. Vasarhelyi and Chin effortlessly convey every nuance of the ordeal in a way that quickly captivates your attention. They introduce all of the key players spread across several countries and, more importantly, just as many cultural divides. As the story unfolds, you feel the stress of the challenge growing more dire with every passing and, likely, wasted moment.
The cast of characters of the would-be rescuers is the stuff of filmmakers’ dreams. They span the spectrum from consummate professionals to eclectic enigmas, with each one essential to the effort. The indispensable visuals include archival footage — much of it never seen before — mixed with seamless re-creations. Although you’re mainly seeing things through the eyes of the rescuers, you’re also able to readily shift into the minds of those hopefully being rescued. The rest of the story is told through expertly-crafted interviews that draw you closer to everyone involved. You not only get a sense of someone, but also feel as if you’ve known the person for years. The whole effort lets you experience the edges of your empathy like never before. Several scenes left me entirely breathless, and several more resulted in tears streaming down my face.
This is a story that also reminds you of the importance of embracing your similarities to other people instead of accentuating your differences. That makes it a rather timely view for a world so lost in what needlessly separates us.