Considering the degree to which the Tham Luang cave rescue captured the world's attention in 2018, it was perhaps inevitable that a big Hollywood movie would eventually be made about the remarkable events which saw a junior soccer team and their coach trapped deep underground by flash flooding during a cave exploration in Northern Thailand.
It also makes sense that Oscar-winner Ron Howard got the job to direct, given his bona fides in the field of real-life, globe-capturing crisis movies, having helmed one of the most well-regarded examples of the genre: 1995's Apollo 13.
Howard's Thirteen Lives tells a similarly incredible tale of human perseverance and ingenuity in the face of a seemingly doomed quagmire.
"Like much of the world, I thought I knew this story," Howard tells TimeOut over a Zoom video chat. "I was knocked out by the details that I didn't know. I thought: this is kind of an anatomy of a miracle. It's not always pretty, it's awkward. The people don't always get along. Yet, look at the decisions they made time after time, and look what it yielded."
Although a widely-seen and highly acclaimed documentary called The Rescue came out last year, amid various other projects, Howard believes a large-scale narrative film about the events has something unique to offer.
"I felt that there were these tremendous acting opportunities that could emotionally connect with audiences," says Howard. "So that no matter how much of the story they knew, they could experience it in a more personal way, a kind of human interest approach. The other thing was to really get into those caves and stage and demonstrate what it was in a detailed way."
Howard says there's plenty of room for multiple depictions of the story.
"I knew about all these versions when I said yes, and I felt like a scripted version made sense. I think it's all valid, the books, the docs, our version, anything that comes along. Because there's more to this story. It is really interesting.
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"And it all leads to the same place, which is: my God, these people set a great example for us by accomplishing what they did, by coming together, putting their differences aside and making this miracle happen."
Colin Farrell and Viggo Mortensen lead the cast of Thirteen Lives as volunteer divers John Volanthen and Rick Stanton, who found the boys, and helped conceive and execute the unprecedented and incredibly risky method of extraction with Aussie diver/anaesthesiologist Harry Harris (Joel Edgerton) and the Thai Navy Seals.
Although the film was shot in Australia, Howard brought on two Thai film-makers, Billy Ruetaivanichkul and Raymond Phathanavirangoon, as producers, to help ensure an authentic depiction.
"They were on the set every single day, working on the dialogue, interfacing with the actors. Looking at the sets and identifying little mistakes or landmines that we might be stepping on. They made a huge contribution to the film. It also gave the [Thai] actors a lot of confidence, because there was somebody who they could talk to in Thai."
Thirteen Lives is not the first time Howard has made a film in this part of the world, having shot sections of the 1988 fantasy epic Willow in various locations in the South Island. TimeOut asks him to compare the experiences.
"Both great, but quite different," he laughs. "Because in Willow we were capturing the landscape, taking advantage of all the topographical diversity. And it was also just an amazing life experience. All of it, the fiords, the Remarkables, it was just great. I loved it. As did my daughter Bryce [Dallas Howard, Jurassic World], who did Pete's Dragon there, she just adores New Zealand. She was there as a little girl on Willow, and also had her own experience. It's a great place to be."
Who: Director Ron Howard.
What: New film Thirteen Lives about the Tham Luang cave rescue.
When: Streaming on Amazon Prime Video from tomorrow.