VOD film review: The Rescue
James R | On 03, Dec 2021
Director: Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Cast: John Volanthen, Richard Stanton
Where to watch The Rescue online in the UK: Disney+ UK
The rescue of 12 boys and their coach from a cave in Thailand made news headlines back in 2018, after a teen football team found themselves caught out by floods that blocked their way out. It wasn’t until 18 days later that they finally made it out alive, thanks to efforts of John Volanthen and Richard Stanton, two British divers who worked with a team of thousands of people to pull off the impossible. Going into The Rescue knowing all this would make you think that the documentary would be a dull retelling of familiar events – that is, until you actually watch it.
Directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi created heart-stopping suspense in the Oscar-winning Free Solo and they repeat the same trick here, as they recount the harrowing ordeal step by step. There’s a patience to their storytelling that’s coupled with a precise focus – rather than try to widen the scope, they zoom in on the rescuers attempting to pull off the feat.
They expertly assemble the story with judicious use of archive news footage and reconstructions, but by taking their time they remind us just how fraught with uncertainty the entire endeavour was – with emergency experts lacking the experience of cave-diving required, it falls to hobbyists John and Richard to provide insight and guidance. From swimming underwater to the sedation needed to get the boys back to dry land, however, every action is full of risk, even though the right decisions have been made. Rather than sensationalise the true story, the documentary manages the exact opposite, playing everything out with an unembellished humanity that reinforces the heart-stopping drama and personal stakes at hand – for 114 minutes, you forget that you watched the story before on the news and get wrapped up in the astonishing selfless perseverance all over again.
The Rescue is available on Disney+ UK, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription or a £79.99 yearly subscription.