(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

THE RESCUE is a documentary about the rescue of a Thai boys' soccer team trapped in Tham Luang Cave in June 2018, when an early monsoon rainfall blocked many of the entrances and would soon flood the cave. The team was trapped behind lower passages that had filled with water. The main "narrator" is Vern Unsworth, a British cave diver who had mapped a lot of the cave.

The first step was to assemble a rescue team. These were not professionals, but men whose hobby was cave diving, and they were acknowledged to be the best in the world. They were also introverts, did not play team sports when they were young, and often had been bullied as children. Even though they were experts, few cave divers have experienced conditions like this where the only path out includes extensive underwater navigation in a very strong current of murky water.

Their first dive found three additional trapped workers, men who had been working the pumps but had been caught by the rising waters. Their rescue gave the cave divers valuable information about how to accomplish their main goal.

The Thai Navy SEALS did some of the original rescue work including exploring the cave, then they turned it over to the British cave divers. At one point, the British felt it was hopeless--they had had great difficulty in bringing the pump workers out in thirty seconds under water, and could not see how they could bring children out in what would be a multi-hour trip. However, the SEALs refused to give up and took back the job until one died. At that point, the British realized they could not give up, and resumed their task. On Day 10 the dozen soccer players were found deep within the cave. Food was brought in, but the oxygen level in their section of the cave was down to 15%, below what would sustain life for long.

Having rescued someone from a cave is like no other caving experience. No place is the experience valuable except in going through the experience for another flooded cave. Because of the problems with the pump workers, one suggestion was to sedate the boys and bring them out unconscious. Although everyone agreed this was a terrible plan, ultimately they agreed this was the only plan that had any chance of working. Ultimately, they brought all the boys (and their coach) out on Days 15 through 17. And within hours of the last rescue, the cave flooded completely.

The same directors, E. Chai Basarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, previously made the documentary FREE SOLO, so they are familiar with filming tense outdoor scenes, which here was dramatic cave photography. Obviously a lot of the rescue operation footage was obviously recreated later, though authentically by the original participants, but there were at least fifteen minutes of original footage taken from almost 87 hours that the Thai SEALs had captured on cameras they carried. There is also an interesting animation style for telling of the legend of the cave and the end credits. Unfortunately, while the rescue was a momentous rescue, the film ended up just average, with perhaps too many scenes of people outside the cave that did not convey new information.

Released theatrically 10/08/2021. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4), or 7/10.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2021 Mark R. Leeper