In 2018, people around the world watched as a soccer team of twelve boys, and their coach, were rescued from a flooded cave in Northern Thailand and now Academy Award-winning filmmakers E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin are giving us a deeper look at what actually transpired in The Rescue (in theatres in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal on Oct. 8, other cities on Oct. 15).
Winner of the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival People’s Choice Award (Documentary), never-before-seen footage, exclusive interviews and reenactments in this chilling documentary reveals just how frightening and risky this two-week rescue mission in the Tham Luang cave really was.
Much of the focus is on a group of divers who had the specific skills required for the two and half hours of underwater travel required for this rescue.
Among these divers are Rick Stanton and John Volanthen who were particularly instrumental in the diving mission, after Vern Unsworth, a local cave explorer, wrote down the names of the “best cave divers in the world” who needed to be part of this mission.
“You have one chance at this rescue,” Unsworth cautioned officials, volunteers and the Royal Thai Navy Seals, stressing that cave diving requires specific skills and equipment beyond the Navy Seals experience.
When Stanton and Volanthen, both from the U.K., initially found the children and their soccer coach stuck in the cave, they took a video that was shared around the world, which revealed that all the boys were still alive.
In The Rescue, Stanton shares that as the pair headed back out to figure out how they can actually get these 13 people out of the cave, he thought “we may be the only ones who ever see them.”
The narrative then shifts to the assistance of Australian Dr. Richard “Harry” Harris, whose medical experience in anaesthesia was critical to the rescue.
The boys and their soccer coach were going to be sedated, with the anaesthetic having to be re-administered during the rescue journey by the divers, who had no experience in doing so.
Dr. Harris says in the documentary that pushing someone’s face under water who is unconscious “felt like euthanasia.”
On top of that stress, these individuals were also facing possible imprisonment if something went wrong.
While The Rescue takes you back to this nail-biting, frightening mission to save these 13 individuals, mostly children, it’s also the information we learn about the personal lives of these volunteer divers, in particular, that really humanizes the experience that we were all so enthralled with in 2018.