Review: Thirteen Lives
A rescue mission is assembled in Thailand where a group of young boys and their soccer coach are trapped in a system of underground caves that are flooding.
Colin Farrell, Viggo Mortensen & Joel Edgerton.
Thirteen Lives is based on a true story of 12 children & one football coach, trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand. Ron Howard is no stranger to directing biographical features, following Apollo, A Beautiful Mind, Rush, Frost/Nixon & Cinderella Man. He is found to be incredibly impressive with the camera, displaying extreme powerful emotions and feelings on screen. While that is most definitely found here, it is not as strong as his previous work.
I often found that Ron was particularly strong in his water sequences, in contract with his lacklustre land scenes. Whether it was the fact that scenes on land weren’t as narratively engaging, or that Ron didn’t particularly know how to film everything in an engaging way. There were certainly moments in which fell flat, due to the weak camerawork or lack of camerawork. The strongest section was without a doubt all scenes involving being underwater, with stellar sound design & tight, claustrophobic cinematography that raised the stakes to extremely high levels, whether you knew the outcome of these boys or not.
I was very fond of the thriller angle taken, rather than the inspiring angle. That wouldn’t entirely capture the feeling of everyone involved in the events. Colin Farrell & Viggo Mortensen both deliver unsurprisingly strong performances, accompanied by very impressive dialect work. As a Brit, I was never distracted or let down by any of the voice work, all actors transforming into their respected roles. There’s no denying that Colin has had one of the strongest years for an actor, delivering 3 other fantastic performances in one year with The Batman, The Banshees of Inisherin & After Yang, he continues to impress here.
Despite it being a thrilling & intense ride, within the first hour, I did keep actively checking the runtime, patiently waiting for the film to change gears and be a lot more engaging. So, while it picks up in the second half, I found the first half to be rather sluggish. I suppose that is due to its land sequences.
Empathy is beaming from every scene, however. It is clear Ron Howard understands each person & their experience and feelings. Knowing when the right moment is to introduce conflict, to test the audience’s own feelings. While actively creating an understanding between everyone, no matter where they stand on what is to be done to save the boys. Always something, or something to root for, which keeps you engaged and unable to look away. While simultaneously feeling the strongest emotion which is present here, fear. Fear of too many variables going horribly wrong.
In the end, while narratively could be a lot stronger with it’s storytelling & pacing, I found Thirteen Lives to be an intense & powerful ride that left me satisfied and full of relief, proving once again why Ron Howard won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.