Thirteen Lives

Directed by: Ron Howard
Distributed by: Amazon Studios

Written by Alexander Reams


Ron Howard’s obsession with the human spirit is nothing new, “Apollo 13,” “Backdraft,” “Rush,” “In the Heart of the Sea,” I could go on and on. He has always been fascinated by people who do what they do best, whether that’s the experts on the ground in “Apollo 13,” the firefighters in “Backdraft” who are pushed to their limits, 2 racers pushing forward in Formula One that changed the game because of how they played, or a sea crew that is lost and has to survive by any means necessary in “In the Heart of the Sea.” 

Howard has turned his eye to the east this time, turning the story of the 2018 Tham Luang Cave rescue into something of a Greek epic. The film feels colossal, and it’s supposed to. The cave sets were real, little CGI was used to create the environment which makes everything seem all too real during the diving scenes. There’s another reason it feels colossal, its runtime. Clocking in at 147 minutes, it’s Howard’s longest since “The Da Vinci Code,” but the runtime is never felt, the film earns every minute and manages to never be dull. 

Howard’s troupe of actors keeps “Thirteen Lives” consistently engaging, as one might expect with Viggo Mortensen and Colin Farrell headlining the picture, portraying Richard Stanton and John Volanthen respectively. Supporting them are Joel Edgerton as Richard Harris, an anesthetist, Tom Bateman as Chris Jewell, and Paul Gleeson as Jason Mallinson. Stanton and Volanthen are who we follow once they enter the film. Before that most of the focus is on the boys and their coach, before they get trapped, as they enter the cave and the realization that they are stuck. Howard’s choice to open not with the divers, but the boys shows his true focus, the people of Thailand. He opens and closes the film with a focus on them. 

Howard not only showed his filmmaking prowess with his actors but behind the camera as well, employing frequent Luca Guadanigno and Apichatpong Weerasethakul cinematographer Sayombu Mukdeeprom (also a native of Thailand) to capture the tight and intense cave sequences, doing so beautifully. After slightly faltering with his underrated, but messy, “Hillbilly Elegy” Howard came back swinging, and he hit a home run that shouldn’t surprise audiences with how great it is, but does.

“Thirteen Lives” Trailer

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

Leave a Reply