‘Thirteen Lives’ tells the true story of a Thai soccer team rescued from a flooded cave

Salt Lake City – Movies that are based on a true story should walk a fine line between getting the facts of what happened as accurately as possible, as well as not turning the movie into a documentary. thirteen livesDirected by Ron Howard, he managed the feat in his retelling of the dramatic 2018 rescue of a soccer coach and his team of teenagers from a flooded cave in Thailand.

the story

When a group of teenage soccer players don’t show up at home one afternoon in June 2018, their families are horrified to learn that the cave they were exploring has been inundated with monsoon rains. With no one sure if the boys are alive or dead, a group of expert scuba divers (Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell and Joel Edgerton) from around the world are called upon to use their unique cave-diving skills to investigate.

The divers are delighted, but a little surprised when they discover that the boys and the instructor are alive but trapped more than 2,500 meters from the entrance to the cave. But the problem for divers and government leaders overseeing the rescue now is how to get the thirteen back to safety, as it takes a dive about 3.5 hours to go each direction, and inexperienced divers tend to panic when submerged for too long.

As family members and then the rest of the world watch anxiously, the group must devise a never-before-tried method to bring the team home safely. Meanwhile, thousands of locals are working frantically up the mountain to try to divert the increasing rainfall and give divers the slightest chance.

The things I loved

I am fond of story movies based on truth, especially when there is a happy ending. For me, the question was how Howard could create tension without needing to change the story unnecessarily for purely dramatic purposes. Also, what might I learn about salvage that I might not have known already.

I was a bit surprised when I actually found myself holding my breath in many of the scenes, as Howard’s use of cave diving scenes helped create the claustrophobic feeling that would accompany diving in such confined spaces for a long time. It was all too easy for me to feel the helplessness of the family members, the determination of those who were trying to divert as much of the floodwaters as possible.

I also appreciate how the film respected Thai culture and really showed the strength of the people of that country.


thirteen lives PG-13 is rated for some strong language and disturbing images. It is often the tension and feelings of claustrophobia that can be unsettling for younger viewers.

Also, there are a lot of dialogues in Thai, with English subtitles.

last thoughts

I really enjoyed this movie. It displays the human spirit and creativity, on the part of divers and those working on the mountain to divert floods. I’m glad it had a happy ending and I find myself a little emotional when one of the divers struggle to process everything he’s been through in the tunnels. I think it’s worth your time to watch it and wish it had a wider release in theaters because it was busier on the big screen.

Andy’s final rating: Three out of four stars

Where do you watch

thirteen lives Streaming is free to subscribers on Amazon’s PRIME VIDEO. It was a limited theatrical release in select cities last week, but it’s not showing in Utah theaters.

We hope you and your family found this review helpful! Andy Farnsworth presents a weekly segment called “What to Watch” on KSL TV 5 in Salt Lake City and also hosts the Fan Effect podcast for KSL NewsRadio. Check out his other in-depth reviews of movies and streaming TV series at KSLTV.com.

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