In the summer of 2018, when a youth soccer team was trapped for 18 days deep in a treacherous cave system, the world became stunned as events unfolded in real time through news reports.
In a phone interview from Los Angeles, British cave diver Rick Stanton recounted critical moments four years ago – after hours underwater inside Tham Luang Cave in northern Thailand.
“As we swam where no one had searched before, we were expecting to find 13 sunken bodies,” Stanton told me. “We couldn’t see, and we might literally run into lifeless kids.”
If it sounds blunt, the 60-year-old former firefighter isn’t much of a compliment. In director Ron Howard’s latest true drama “Thirteen Lives”, which premieres Friday worldwide. Prime video, master diver Stanton portrayed by Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy). In a statement, the actor described his real-life counterpart as “rude.”
Rick calls it the way he sees it [which] “It can be a little shocking,” said Mortensen, who spent a lot of time getting to know Stanton before and during filming. He says in the movie, this Not Going to work, they’ll die if we do that this is“It is not social in the way that most people are.”
Since then, millions have watched versions of the story told in various documentaries, notably National Geographic.Rescue, which first aired last fall. Some have become amateur experts at the crisis news event, as evidenced by Wikipedia Entry Over 7500 words.
Could Hollywood’s handling of the Thai cave rescue – with Mortensen as Stanton, Colin Farrell as diving partner John Volanthen and a cast of Thai actors – reveal something new?
Howard, known for his hits based on true stories like “Apollo 13” and “Hillbilly Elegy,” has worked to provide previously unknown details and amplify the human drama. “Anytime you write a story that is based on true events, it is essential that you have people who truly understand it,” Howard said in a statement. “It would be an exaggeration to suppose that any researcher can properly understand everything.”
The director then hired Stanton and another diver on the site, Jason Mallinson, as consultants for the dive sites. Even with a running time of 147 minutes, “Thirteen Lives” races through early setup scenes and then the stakes rise.
Like divers themselves, viewers experience outbursts of agitation. “Imagine we found them all alive in a dry room,” Stanton said. “We felt relief, but it was short-lived. Our joy of being alive was tempered by: Now what are we going to do?”
Risky situation, risky plan
Even while promoting a movie he consulted, Stanton didn’t stick to the PR script when asked about one of his first on-screen cave diving tours like an avalanche.
In the movie, huge chunks of rock are seen falling on British divers. “I would say that’s not accurate,” Stanton told me. “We did experience a flood pulse at some point, where there is a wall of water coming towards you due to the increased flow. But it was not because the cave wall was shattered.”
However, regarding the key details and character dynamics in the game, he says the filmmakers got it right. Before arriving in Thailand, when first discussing the crisis over the phone with diving partner Volanthen, Stanton broke the tension when he muttered: “I don’t even like kids.”
When asked about the line, he replied, “That’s right! What I’m saying is that I organized my whole life to avoid children.” On screen, as in real life, Volanthen is a family man whose social and emotional intelligence complements Stanton’s strategic thinking outside the box.
Later, once the trapped boys are found, the race against two clocks is ticking – the oxygen in the cave room is getting thinner by the hour, and the monsoon season is on the horizon.
Dozens of Thai Navy SEALs commanded by Captain Arnont Sureewong (Tui Thiraphat Sajakul in the movie) are mobilized. One of them, Saman Konan, 38 years old, Die While trying to transport supplies deep into the cave. The army halted any of its additional dives into the third room, but their manpower later proved vital.
Meanwhile, sloppy middle-aged British divers sought to do more than just sit on the sidelines. Similar to the first responder, Stanton’s ability to have emotional distance sparked a “crazy” idea: drugging and drowning boys.
His friend, Australian anesthetist Richard “Harry” Harris (performed by Australian actor Joel Edgerton) initially rejected the dangerous and immoral plan. Gradually he realized that this was the only way and trained his fellow “amateur expert” cave divers to anesthetize a submerged child in a wetsuit.
“Harris called it the Stanton dormant package plan,” Stanton said. “Mentally speaking, we had to treat them like packages. However, the moment you pick up your ‘pack’, you realize it’s a live person. And that’s a different kettle of fish.”
While some critics please enter The documentary version “Thirteen Lives” attracts viewers to several topics at once. It highlights the risks faced by more than 5,000 people from 17 countries working together – with the danger made even more profound by cinematic technologies.
Hundreds of locals worked alongside a water flow expert, who helped divert 100 million gallons of rain to prevent the caves from flooding. The county governor had to trust the divers’ technical expertise to approve their plan. The film also portrays respectfully the predominant religion of Buddhism in the country, where stunned Thai parents are seen in fervent prayers.
For the master diver, who often says that panic is death In caves – especially white water caves without seeing – he says don’t overlook the smaller heroes. “The boys were largely responsible for their own survival by staying calm in this situation,” Stanton said. “As children of a ruthless hill tribe from that northern part of Thailand, they kept them together for nine days in the dark without food.”
Building a breathless pressure reminiscent of the 2013 sci-fi drama “Gravity,” this drama packs emotional punch by sticking to the facts. Since weak souls are nearly lost at critical moments, “Thirteen Lives” will rip your heart out, and may even make you hug your children even harder.
“This is a story about selfless people working together,” actor Mortensen said in a statement. “everybody [involved] She wanted to get it right.”
“Thirteen Lives” is rated PG-13 due to its strong language and disturbing images Streaming all over the world on Prime Video.
Josh Shepherd covers culture, faith and public policy for many media outlets including The Stream. His articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion & Politics, Faithfully Magazine, Religion News Service, and Providence Magazine. After graduating from the University of Colorado, he previously worked at the Heritage Foundation and a focus on family. Josh and his wife live in the Washington DC area with their two children.