On the 23rd of June of 2018, 12 Thai boys were trapped deep inside Tham Luang cave, located in Thailand’s Chiang Rai province. The boys were members of the Wild Boars junior football team who, accompanied by their coach, set off on an innocent adventure that turned into a daunting experience of over a week. The team’s misfortune drew international attention, and as the days passed the mission to rescue them grew strategically and quantitatively, uniting military men, diving instructors, and service providers. Telling a story of human endurance and compassion, Tom Waller’s new film Cave Rescue reminds its viewers of humanity’s power and faithfulness when working together in extraordinary circumstances.
The film begins as the football team and their coach finish practice and head towards the cave. At the cave’s entrance, they leave their bikes and venture inwards with nothing but their torches. After this point the Wild Boars stay in the background of the film as the plot centres on the heroism of the rescue mission. The news spreads after a security person in the area takes notice of the bikes. The families of the missing kids aren’t shown until after local authorities are informed and people start to talk about it in town. As every household becomes aware of the accident, an important call takes place to a man who operates a water pumping service with the use of Turbojet water pumps.
Thailand undergoes a monsoon season that ranges from May to October, dominated by heavy rainfall and warm weather. The downpours are short but sharp, managing to flood narrow and low areas in little time. This happened in the Tham Luang cave, and it’s why the team and their coach were unable to find their way out. Turbojet pumps were essential in draining the water from the inside of the cave to merely make it possible for others to go in.
As ever, regulations and procedures hinder the prompt completion of the cave drainage. One scene shows guards preventing the owner of the pumps from entering the cave without a permit. This is one of a few scenes director Tom Waller keeps straightforwardly factual, despite subtitles at the beginning of the movie warning against viewer expectation for precise details of the event. These scenes, especially, create a connection between the characters and the viewers, triggering emotions like frustration and curiosity as to what will happen next.
However, connection with the victims of the accident is left to be desired. Perhaps this is due to the focus of the film in the rescue mission. Still, knowing a little more about the coach’s story or getting some context relevant to the boys or the team in general could’ve added an extra layer to the viewer experience. One particularly interesting character, though, is that of Jim Warny, an expert Belgian cave diver who managed to save the coach, and the last to exit the cave. Portrayed by the real Jim Warny, he is one of several characters played by the actual people involved in the events of the rescue.
Cave Rescue keeps viewers hooked to the screen throughout the life-saving mission. Presenting the emotion and spirit that news reportage often lacks, this film keeps this harrowing story alive, at a time when we could all use a reminder of our resilience as humans.