The Rescue review – fascinating documentary on Thai cave rescue | Documentary films
A A junior football team trapped deep in a flooded cave in Thailand is making headlines around the world. Even the Thai Navy Seals couldn’t save them and their chances of survival are dire. That is, until a pair of middle-aged Brits arrives at the scene. Rick and John don’t really look like action heroes; one is bald, the other is bespectacled, and both could be described as clumsy. But they are two of the best cave divers in the world, and in 2018 they led one of the most spectacular rescue missions in recent times.
This involves a lot documentary by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, the director duo and married couple behind the Oscar-winning climbing documentary Free solo, focuses on the rescuers rather than the rescued (the rights to the boys’ story were quickly purchased for another project, by Netflix). Twenty-four hour media coverage of the event is seamlessly integrated with footage filmed by the locals and reenactments featuring the divers themselves. Vasarhelyi and Chin recreate the sense of the clock ticking as oxygen levels in the cave drop, while the monsoon rages outside.
But the dilemma at the heart of the film is both ethical and practical; once the boys are located and found alive, the divers still have to get them out. The plan involves sedation, with Australian diver and anesthesiologist Harry likening the process to euthanasia. The stakes seem high as these fans suddenly see themselves shoulder such a responsibility – making a group effort on the world stage.