Review: The Rescue (2021)

The Rescue (2021)

Directed by: Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi | 107 minutes | documentary

For two weeks in the summer of 2018, the world is under the spell of the rescue of a Thai youth football team who became trapped in the kilometer-deep cave of Tham Luang Nang Non. Soldiers who had rushed were powerless; two Thai Navy Seals died. No one appears to have the right training and equipment to free the young football players from the endless corridors of fast flowing water. Except for two sweet-natured, introverted, middle-aged Englishmen.

The rescued twelve football players and their coach are not spoken of in this documentary from National Geographic. Rick Stanton and John Volanthen – experienced cave divers, are the protagonists. Hypothermic is not the right word, even a little out of place in this case. The events are exciting enough; the emotions of reserved Englishmen may be the right ones. This is especially effective when the gruesome liberation method is described.

The divers evacuated the weakened football players by transporting them one by one with a narcotic and an oxygen mask – as if under anesthesia, underwater to the exit. The undersigned always has objections: it remains a morbid, risky undertaking, but the outcome is already known. The approach of the documentary makers initially feels good, pending an emotional recap in a broader perspective.

Yet you are left with the feeling that what is shown has already been completed; perhaps this documentary should have been made sooner. For the viewer, the critical note that lets you know why not is missing; above all, there is no other perspective than that of the cave divers. A typical fact of a National Geographic documentary, by the way: the technical, supercooled approach – however careful, is not enough for the right dramatic effect.

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