‘The Rescue’ Embeds Itself Within the Thai Soccer Team Cave Rescue

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The Rescue (CREDIT: National Geographic)

Starring: Junior Soccer Players, Cave Divers, Thai Navy SEALs

Directors: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Rating: PG for Dangerous Situations

Release Date: October 8, 2021 (Theaters)

If you want to experience very high levels of vicarious stress, then I recommend watching The Rescue. If that sounds awful, know that you’ll also be rewarded with plenty of inspiration! This documentary tells the story of the Thai soccer team that was trapped in and subsequently rescued from a cave in 2018. The operation lasted a few weeks, and while the film lasts less than two hours, you really get a sense of just how long the boys were waiting to be freed. The whole time I was watching, I just wanted it to be over. I knew the major details about the story, so I could rest assured that it was going to be a happy ending, but that didn’t make it any more bearable. That’s not a criticism about the filmmaking; on the contrary, the fact that I could experience that much secondhand claustrophobia and still be enthralled speaks to the power of the presentation.

The Rescue is about once-in-a-lifetime ingenuity fueled by whatever hope is available, all undergirded by the question “What does the impossible look like?” An international team of the best cave divers in the world is assembled. If anybody can retrieve the boys safely, it’s these guys, but their assessment is that it will be the most difficult job they’ve ever had to pull off. With poor visibility, lowering oxygen levels, and rising water levels that are only going to get higher with the looming monsoon season, the task is urgent and requires levels of expertise that have quite possibly never been utilized. Solutions are made up on the fly that theoretically sound like terrible ideas to the people capable of pulling them off, but they’re certainly better than doing nothing.

I can tell you this with genuine certainty: I won’t be doing any spelunking anytime soon. Not that I was planning on doing that before watching The Rescue, but now I have something I can point to if anybody ever asks me why I’m so against it. Maybe I’ll dip my toe in a cave or two, but never so far that I can’t see where I entered from. But thank God there are people on this world who feel very differently than me about this. As this documentary demonstrates, we kind of need them.

The Rescue is Recommended If You Like: your documentaries inspirational and death-defying

Grade: 4 out of 5 Tham Luangs

This Is a Movie Review: Free Solo

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CREDIT: Jimmy Chin/National Geographic

I saw Free Solo on a December night, yet the sight of Alex Honnold scaling thousands of feet of bare rock without any supports was enough for my palms to leave a big wet spot on my shirt. Of course, I was inside and simmering in room temperature as opposed to the seasonal cool, but even so, I don’t usually get sweat saturation while merely sitting down this time of year. Anyway, if you haven’t heard about Free Solo, it’s about this guy who climbs massive rock formations without any protective equipment or partners, which has, according to him, low risk but high consequences. That is to say, the risk is low because he’s among the best in the world, but the consequences are high because one mistake means almost certain violent death. Watching this documentary is sure to make many wonder about the ethics of simply bearing witness to a fundamentally dangerous endeavor. But if there weren’t a film being made about him, Honnold would surely be scaling the highest heights anyway. Might as well record it to capture the triumph or to help pick up the pieces if something goes wrong.

I give Free Solo 3000 Feet out of 4000 Climbing Notes.