Following in the same footsteps as Clint Eastwood’s maligned biopic The 15:17 to Paris, Tom Waller’s Cave Rescue is a dramatic thriller about the 2018 real-life mission to save a team of young Thai soccer players. Like Eastwood’s movie, it stars some of the actual people who were key players in the recovery. There isn’t much build up to the incident in Cave Rescue, which separates it from The 15:17 to Paris. Waller’s movie is actually more in tune with 2012’s Act of Valor, a film that featured a balance of dramatized filmmaking and thrilling Navy SEAL reenactments mostly filled out by a cast of actual active duty SEALs.
The perk about Cave Rescue’s streamlined storytelling is that the viewer is a witness to various departments pulling their weight; cooperating with each other to devise a safe and speedy plan to save the trapped team during a particularly nasty monsoon season. The downfall is that smaller story threads are hardly followed up on because the film moves so fast to capture a bigger picture. Hints are dropped about the impact this hazard is causing others (for instance, water extractions are flooding farming fields and affecting the surrounding agriculture), but the bare minimum is invested in the writing for the story to eventually move towards the action-oriented sequences.
Diving expert Jim Warny portrays himself during the leg of the mission that required professionals to swim through caves and arrive at several checkpoints along the way (due to the far distance between the mouth of the cave and the soccer players). Warny is a hero, but that doesn’t automatically make him an actor. His stoic look reads as someone wondering why a celebrity (perhaps Matt Damon or Mark Strong) is not playing him in this adaptation. Cave Rescue does a good job acknowledging the bravery of these real-life responders, but the honour becomes muddled with these favours asking the participants to relive these memories for entertainment purposes.
The 15:17 to Paris, Act of Valor and now Cave Rescue prove that this decision to cast real-life heroes in film adaptations of their lives is rather gimmicky; watering down an otherwise faithful portrayal of real-life heroism.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie