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Mortensen and Farrell bring Thai cave rescue story to the screen

Mortensen and Farrell bring Thai cave rescue story to the screen

TUESDAY, July 19, 2022

Four years on from the dramatic rescue of a group of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a cave in Thailand their story has been brought to the big screen by Oscar-winning filmmaker Ron Howard.

The "Wild Boar" soccer team was exploring the Tham Luang cave complex in northern Thailand's Chiang Rai in June 2018 when monsoon rains flooded the tunnels and trapped them underground.

The boys, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach survived nine days in a partially flooded chamber some four kilometres (2.5 miles) inside the cave by drinking water dripping from the rocks before they were discovered by two British cave divers.

The complicated rescue operation took nearly three weeks and involved Thailand's elite navy SEAL units and volunteers from around the world.

"Thirteen Lives" recreates the 17-day ordeal inside the sprawling cave complex and out above the mountain covering it where volunteers, engineers and soldiers pumped millions of litres of water out of the cave and drilled through rocks looking for gaps to reach the boys and to make way for water pipes and power cables.

"It's stunning what was achieved. And it's not just about the heroic divers. You know, it really is an entire community and a country and a lot of countries ultimately participating and making something, you know, amazing come true," Howard told Reuters as he attended the film's premiere in London's Leicester Square on Monday.

"Thirteen Lives" stars Viggo Mortensen and Colin Farrell as British divers Rick Stanton and John Volanthen with Australian actor Joel Edgerton taking on the role of Harry Harris, who was brought on to help out when options to save the boys were running out.


Stanton, Volanthen and members of the international rescue dive team, Chris Jewell, Josh Bratchley and Connon Roe, attended Monday's event, praising Howard's interpretation of the events.

"I think it's good for people to know, you know, what happened. It's not a documentary, but it's pretty much true to life. And what is completely realistic and emotive is the feeling, you know, the crowd scenes and what was going on in the cave camp and in the cave. It really does replicate it very, very well," said Stanton.

Volanthen admitted to not knowing who Farrell was before filming began, but said he was impressed with the Irish actor's dedication to bringing him to life on screen.

"I had no idea who Colin was because I'm not really a movie buff, but he seems to have done a really good job. He seems to have been very diligent. He even took up running to be as a method actor, as it were. He's done a really good job," he said.

The rescue efforts claimed the life of a former Thai navy SEAL diver who had volunteered to help while another Thai navy SEAL officer died 1.5 years later from a blood infection he contracted during the operation.

"Thirteen Lives" will be released in select US and UK cinemas on July 29 and launches globally on Amazon Prime Video on August 5.