REVIEW: ‘Thirteen Lives’ movie dramatically tells real rescue story of Thai soccer team from flooded cave

Aug 5, 2022, 2:45 PM
(L to R) Thira ‘Aum’ Chutikul as Commander Kiet, Popetorn ‘Two’ Soonthornyanaku as Dr Karn,...
(L to R) Thira ‘Aum’ Chutikul as Commander Kiet, Popetorn ‘Two’ Soonthornyanaku as Dr Karn, Joel Edgerton as Harry Harris, Colin Farrell as John Volanthen and Viggo Mortenson as Rick Stanton in THIRTEEN LIVES, a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film. Credit: Vince Valitutti / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures © 2022 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.
(L to R)

SALT LAKE CITY — Movies based on a true story have to walk a fine line between getting the facts of what happened as accurately as possible, but also not making the movie into a documentary.  Thirteen Lives, directed by Ron Howard, manages to pull that feat off in his re-telling of the dramatic 2018 rescue of a soccer coach and his team of teenagers from a flooded cave in Thailand.


When a group of teenage soccer players don’t show up at home one afternoon in June 2018, their families are horrified to learn that the the cave in which they were exploring had flooded thanks to the seasonal monsoon rains.  With no one sure if the boys are alive or dead, a group of expert SCUBA divers (Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, Joel Edgerton) are called in from around to world use their unique cave diving skills to investigate.

The divers are pleased, but more than a little surprised when they discover the boys and the coach are alive but trapped more than 2,500 meters from the cave entrance.  But the problem the divers and the government leaders overseeing the rescue operation now face is how to get all 13 back to safety, since the dive takes about 3.5 hours to go each direction, and inexperienced divers tend to panic when submerged for that long.

While family members and then the rest of the world watch anxiously, the group must devise a never-before-tried method to bring the team safely home.  Meanwhile, thousands of local residents work feverishly up the mountain to try and divert the increasing rainfall and give the divers even the slightest of chances.


I’m a sucker for the based-on-a-true story movies, especially when there’s a happy ending.  So for me going in, the question was how well could Howard create the tension without unnecessarily changing the story purely for dramatic purposes.  Also, what would I learn about the rescue that I perhaps did not already know.

I was a little surprised to find myself actually holding my breath in several scenes, as Howard’s use of extreme close ups in the cave diving scenes helped create the feeling of claustrophobia that would be inherent in diving through such tight quarters for so long.  It was very easy for me to feel the helplessness of the family members, and determination of those who were trying to divert as much of the floodwater as they could.

I also appreciated how the movie respected the Thai culture and really showcased the strength of that country’s people.


Thirteen Lives is rated PG-13 for some strong language and unsettling images.  Mostly it’ll be the tension and feelings of claustrophobia that might be unsettling for younger viewers.

Also, there is a lot of dialogue in Thai, with English subtitles.


I really enjoyed this movie.  It showcases the human spirit and ingenuity, both on the part of the divers and those working on the mountain to divert the floods.  I’m glad it was a happy ending and even found myself a bit emotional when one of the divers struggles to process everything he had been through in the tunnels.  I think it’s well worth your time to watch and wish it had a wider release in theaters since it was even more engrossing on the big screen.

Andy’s final rating: THREE out of FOUR stars


Thirteen Lives is streaming free to subscribers on PRIME VIDEO from Amazon.  It had a limited theatrical release in select cities last week, but is not playing in Utah theaters.

Hopefully you & your family found this review helpful! Andy Farnsworth does a weekly “What To Watch” segment for KSL 5 TV in Salt Lake City and also hosts the Fan Effect podcast for KSL NewsRadio. Check out his other in-depth reviews of movies and streaming TV series on

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Movie Reviews

(L to R) B.J. Novak as Ben Manalowitz and Boyd Holbrook as Ty Shaw in VENGEANCE, directed and writt...

REVIEW: Dark comedy ‘Vengeance’ goes deeper than easy stereotypes for laughs in murder mystery movie

The death of a one-time fling draws B.J. Novak's writer/podcaster character Ben to West Texas to investigate and hopefully turn the story into a career-making podcast in Focus Features' VENGEANCE. KSL's Andy Farnsworth says this dark comedy has some great twists and very funny moments, while also going beyond stereotypes to create real characters.
19 days ago
Michael Cera as “Hank” and Samuel L. Jackson as “Jimbo” in Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank...

REVIEW: ‘Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank’ remakes an adult comedy classic into an animated movie for modern-day kids

A kids animated movie based on the irreverent 1970's film BLAZING SADDLES? That's exactly what PAWS OF FURY: THE LEGEND OF HANK is, right down to having Mel Brooks voice a character. A friendly dog ventures to the land of cats to become a samurai, and finds himself protecting a village that doesn't even want him there. KSL's Andy Farnsworth says its got a great voice cast but keeping your expectations for the movie in check will help you enjoy it more.
1 month ago
The Gray Man (2022) Ryan Gosling as Six. Cr. Stanislav Honzik/Netflix © 2022...

REVIEW: ‘The Gray Man’ is a violent but fast-paced throwback to action/spy movies of the past, with Chris Evans and Ryan Gosling chasing each other around the globe

The new action thriller movie THE GRAY MAN, from AVENGERS ENDGAME directors Joe and Anthony Russo, sees Chris Evans' sadistic mercenary chasing Ryan Gosling's on-the-run CIA agent all around the globe to get back some stolen information. KSL's Andy Farnsworth says it's a love letter to spy and action movies of the past, and is very entertaining at times, though it is also quite violent.
1 month ago
(L-R): Natalie Portman as Mighty Thor and Chris Hemsworth as Thor in Marvel Studios' THOR: LOVE AND...

REVIEW: Portman, Bale help make ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ more than just another goofy adventure in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER, the 29th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, sees Chris Hemsworth's Thor have to deal with his ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) using his formerly-destroyed mystical hammer and possessing his same power while trying to stop a villain who can kill gods. KSL's Andy Farnsworth says it's another goofy take on the character that has some very funny moments, but may not be to everyone's tastes.
1 month ago
Young Gru (Steve Carell) dreams of being the baddest villain of all time in MINIONS: THE RISE OF GR...

REVIEW: Solid story, setting, voice cast lift animated sequel/prequel ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ above its predecessor

MINIONS: THE RISE OF GRU brings back everyone's favorite little yellow troublemakers from the DESPICABLE ME franchise, this time in a tale of how Gru began to be a super-villain. KSL's Andy Farnsworth says it's a much more enjoyable entry from start to finish over the first MINIONS movie, with clever villains, a great voice cast, soundtrack, and just the right amount of Minions hi-jinks mixed in.
2 months ago
In Disney and Pixar’s “Lightyear,” Buzz (voice of Chris Evans) returns to the planet he’s b...

REVIEW: Latest Disney/Pixar movie ‘Lightyear’ is a better-than-average sci-fi tale helped by its ‘Toy Story’ connection

In the new Disney/Pixar film LIGHTYEAR, fans get a chance to see why the toy Buzz Lightyear did some of the things he did in the TOY STORY movies, and why his owner Andy wanted the toy in the first place. KSL's Andy Farnsworth says it's a very meta concept and a better than average sci-fi movie with some hilarious characters and moments that will please many, but definitely not all Disney fans.
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
cyber security through multi factor authentication setup...
Les Olson IT

How multi factor authentication setup helps companies stay safe

Multi factor authentication (MFA) setup is an important security measure that every company should implement for their workers. It’s also wise to install it for your personal and home accounts.
Lighting Design

Check out these stunning lamps with stained glass shades

Lamps with stained glass shades are statement pieces that are more than simply aesthetic. They also meet a functional requirement: to light up a room.
Address Bar of internet browser shows internet access...

Utah voters 50+ support increased access to Internet

The AARP surveyed Utah voters aged 50 plus about internet access and if they support the expansion of broadband, especially in rural areas currently lacking it.
REVIEW: ‘Thirteen Lives’ movie dramatically tells real rescue story of Thai soccer team from flooded cave