The Great Cave of the Sleeping Lady (Tham Luang Nang Non) is a cave located in a mountain system that marks the border between Thailand and Myanmar. Its maximum depth is 279 feet, and its total length is 10.3 kilometers. Prior to 2018 it was just a tourist spot frequented mainly by cave diving enthusiasts. On June 23, 2018, the whole world was going to know this remote place. The Rescue (2021) tells the odyssey of 12 children and their soccer coach after being trapped inside this cave system. The documentary is approached from the perspective of rescuers and personnel who worked to accomplish one of the most incredible rescue missions.
The duo of Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi set out once again to pursue an adventure of epic proportions. Their previous project Free Solo (2018) earned them the Oscar for Best Documentary. In this they followed the trail of Alex Honnold in his attempt to become the first mountaineer to climb El Capitan, in Yosemite Valley, using the technique known as “Free solo” in which the mountaineer does not use any additional equipment other than his own body.
From the vertigo of the heights Chin and Vasarhelyi go to the claustrophobic depths of a cavern with The Rescue. What is impressive about this new work by the filmmakers is how they handle the resource of interviews, combined with recorded footage of the events. With a successful editing they build a suspense thriller. Even when the details of the outcome of this historical event are known, the handling of the direction and the use of the assets offered by the cinematographic language make this documentary maintain an absolute tension from beginning to end.
The stories of the men who made it possible for the world to witness the miraculous rescue of 13 people who were at the mercy of Mother Nature for 18 days. The monsoon rains made rescue difficult and its location more than 4 kilometers from the entrance made the balance weigh on the side of impossibility and of achieving any mission successfully. The music of Daniel Pemberton (The Trial of Chicago 7, Steve Jobs) is combined with the edition of Bob Eisenhardt (Free Solo, Soldiers of Music) to give dynamism to the interviews and avoid the monotony that can come with repetition and the forced succession of the testimonies of those involved.
The Rescue transcends because, in addition to revealing the ins and outs of an almost impossible mission, it also tells the story of a group of unlikely heroes in parallel. We can read between the lines and understand that these men who never imagined being in a similar situation must achieve their own small personal rescues before they can complete the mission that destiny has assigned them. Exciting, sublime and overwhelming this film reminds us of that reality always surpasses fiction.