Ron Howard’s latest film “Thirteen Lives” reveals the truth behind the international cave rescue of a trapped Thai soccer team in 2018.
“Thirteen Lives” is based on the real-life rescue mission of 12 boys and their soccer coach who were trapped in Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province, Thailand, due to an unexpected rainstorm on June 23, 2018.
The event, which made international headlines, prompted thousands of volunteers to offer their assistance to Thai forces, including acclaimed British cave divers John Volanthen and Richard Stanton. The successful mission saw all 13 individuals alive and rescued from the cave between July 8 and 10 in 2018.
Howard’s take on the dramatic cave rescue highlights the dangerous complexities of the mission and the triumphant battle of the combined forces of Thai Navy SEALs, engineers, divers and volunteers in a race against nature.
The two-time Oscar-winning director reveals the never-before-reported truth behind how the divers were able to extract the boys from the miles- and hours-long dive through the cave’s narrow passages.
“I live in Thailand, so when this happened, until the end, I just knew that kids were stuck in a cave and suddenly the kids were out. And I think that’s what most of the people in the world today just know that much,” Sahajak Boonthankit, the actor who portrays Governor Narongsak, said in a press conference on July 29. “But this film allows you to take it step by step. The gentlemen who were there are here to tell that story.”
“Ron puts it in sequence so you understand how, when, where, why the kids got in there, how they came out, how they spent their time in there and who did what,” the Thai actor added. “This is really the superhero movie of the year. It’s a super movie with many, many heroes. I advise people to see this movie because I think it will give you an idea of what it is like if you get together to help one another, you make life much easier, and there’s a lot of love in it.”
The film stars Colin Farrell, Joel Edgerton, Viggo Mortensen, Tom Bateman and Paul Gleeson along with Thai actors Pattrakorn Tungsupakul, Teerapat Sajakul, James Teeradon Supapunpinyo, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Popetorn Soonthornyanakij and Sukollawat Kanaros.
Howard and the actors stressed the importance of teamwork in both the real-life rescue mission and in the production of “Thirteen Lives.” Howard also specifically brought in Raymond Phathanavirangoon as co-producer to help authentically portray Thai culture in the film, focusing on dialogue and small details related to the Thai people.
“I remember one of the first conversations I had with Ron when he said, ‘Look, you know, we’re going through a pandemic, the world is not always the best place, but there’s a real opportunity here to make a film that show how wonderful it is that we can all come together and show that regardless of nationalities and all these divisions that we have, that we can do something miraculous,’” Phathanavirangoon noted. “And this film is a reminder of that. In the end, yes, it’s a Thai story and it happened in Thailand, but I really wanna consider it as a human story that everybody can actually relate to regardless of any kinds of divisions that we have.”
“There are no lead actors in this movie or in this story. And that was a beautiful thing,” Viggo Mortensen, the actor who portrays diver Richard Stanton, said. “Nobody was doing this because they were gonna get rich, because they were gonna gain new territory, because they were gonna get political power. People did it because it was the right thing to do.”
“It does show humans are capable of doing amazing things together,” he continued. “Maybe these people, most of whom or pretty much none of them, were known people or famous people. They got together and did something amazing for all the right reasons, you know? And we can do that more.”
“Thirteen Lives” is currently showing in select theaters. It will become available to stream on Amazon Prime Video this Friday.