“A chronicle of the enthralling, against-all-odds story that transfixed the world in 2018: the daring rescue of twelve boys and their coach from deep inside a flooded cave in Northern Thailand.”

Directors: Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Release Date: October 8, 2021

The Rescue tells the story of the Tham Luang cave rescue in Thailand. That is the simple version. The longer version is that 12 youth soccer players and the 25-year-old assistant coach went into a cave but became trapped deep within the depths after heavy rain fall partially flooded the cave system. They had no means of escape, so after two weeks of no contact, the rescue mission became a world-wide effort. Over the course of nearly three full days, a series of remarkably brave and talented men rescued all 13 individuals from the cave just before more monsoon rains came and drown the cave depths even more.

Jimmy Chin is appointment viewing now. Free Solo (2018) won the Oscar for Best Documentary at the 2019 Academy Awards. The Rescue did not get nominated at the 2022 ceremony but it did get nominated for Best Documentary film at many various different film festivals. Chin has garnered the reputation as one of the best nature-based story-tellers of the past decade so now may be a good time to go back and rewatch his two earlier documentaries, Reel Rock 7 (2012) and Meru (2015).

Chin has the ability to speak the language of these crazy nature skill seekers. The most indecipherable person of all the stories is Alex Honnold, but The Rescue is not just about one person or a small group of climbers. This is Chin’s first story that centers more around a world renowned event and, in all honesty, a possible international catastrophe.

The Rescue pins a bunch of dastardly talented middle-aged cave divers against seemingly impossible conditions, skeptical Thailand government officials, torrential rain and unthinkable mental hurdles. It is an against-all-odds, unbelievable story, and Chin brings it back to live in often all-to-real fashion.

The main narrators for the story are all of the various cave divers who risked their lives to save everyone. There were four British individuals, two Australians and one Irish man who played a direct impact on literally dragging the kids out of the watery depths they were thought to be trapped in.

Is it rude to say I was very impressed by the on-camera speaking ability of these divers? Not sure if all the press coverage post 2018 is a reason now as to why they were so capable of telling this story from a personal vantage point, but whatever the reason, it is commendable.

Part of Chin’s remarkable ability as a director is how he is able to muster the perfect crescendo. The Rescue builds up till the last 30 minutes where all you are is feeling is existential dread and fear. You have these heart-pumping emotions despite knowing how the saga plays out. This is the first time Chin has made a story where the majority of the audience knew the happy ending for the individuals involved. Sure, some may have known of Honnold and his physical feat, or the efforts by the thrill seekers in Meru or Reel Rock 7, but those men did not have the global reach that this story did.

Chin tackled a problem that many fictional filmmakers have when they are dealing with the prequel problem; how do you make people care?

Chin’s solution to this problem is formulating a story that is remarkably compelling. The Rescue can be taught in a history class, and by that I mean you can mark out the story with distinctive marks in the timeline. You can pinpoint the pivot points in the story. You can see the breadcrumbs dribbled earlier in the story that pay off later. Chin’s way of telling his story is the polar opposite of “the ends justify the means”. It is the journey that matters. It is the quiet moments as much as the loud well-known moments that make up the emotion at the stories conclusion.

To put it plainly, Jimmy Chin is incredibly good at his job and The Rescue highlights his best attributes.

Before leaving you, I have to point out something that is mentioned in the story but deserves more attention.

The fact that these divers were some fairly random middle-aged men and they were able to do what government officials and Navy Seals could not speaks volume as to how specialized this talent is. It has to be so hard to do what these men did. In the end they did this incredibly dangerous task while also hauling unconsciousness kids kilometers to safety. The whole thing is wild.

STANKO RATING: A (4.5/5 Stars)

P.S. After having watched The Rescue, I guess I have to turn into Amazon Prime’s Thirteen Lives (2022). How can a fictional story be better than real life? Hard to say. But with the story in my head, the urge is something I will just give into.

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