Dive into this harrowing documentary

Illustration by Jaida Noble | The rescue coalition enlisted the help and expertise of hobbyist cave-divers to find and save the Thai soccer team.

“The Rescue” perfectly captures the frantic emotion of 2018’s dramatic events.

In 2018, thirteen members of a Thai soccer team — twelve players aged between 11 and 16 and their coach — were having a team outing in a local cave when a monsoon arrived and trapped them inside. “The Rescue” dives head-first into the drama, guided by the team of hobbyist cave-divers that spearheaded the rescue mission to take us through the nerve-wracking events of that tragic June. In cooperation of forces from Thailand, Australia, China, the US and the UK, the team of thousands of volunteers and servicepeople worked incessantly to dam entire river systems, pump the cave of millions of pounds of water, and dive for hours at a time to locate the children and their coach. As one interviewee remembered it, “‘Mission Impossible’ became Mission Possible.” “The Rescue” is a story of heroism and collective humanity, and directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s most emotional work yet. The duo have a rare and natural flair for crafting moving documentaries and it shows in “The Rescue”. 

With this gripping new film, Vasarhelyi and Chin come off the heels of their critically acclaimed, Academy Award-winning biopic “Free Solo,” and Chin with an earlier success in “Meru.” Now shifting away from rock-climbing, their first release in three years combines their know-how of shooting extreme athletics with unprecedentedly powerful mixed-footage storytelling to create an intense tear-jerker. I haven’t been this emotional at a film in a while, and for it to be a documentary makes that feat all the more impressive. 

As impactful as it is, “The Rescue” does have its drawbacks. Repetition of shots and graphics do sometimes draw away from the viewing, which felt more like poor editing than necessary evils. The introduction feels almost like it was made for a working cut, which pre-exposes the viewer to some of the later drama in a way that I felt minimized the impact slightly further on. The conclusion also felt rushed and not as clearly communicated as the rest of the film, which is disappointing given the level of build-up.

While imperfect, “The Rescue” is already one of the best films of 2021 so far and the first I’ve seen with near-certain Oscar prospects. 

Title: “The Rescue”

Star Rating: 4/5

[Available at time of writing to see in theatres]

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