Review by Dan Skip Allen
Cave Rescue is the second film about the Thai soccer team stranded in the cave system that came out in a matter of days. That doesn't include last year's documentary, now streaming on National Geographic and Disney+. The two narrative films start the same, but they are distinctly different from each other after that.
Cave Rescue is a much faster and more linear version of this story. It comes from the Thai side of things more than the British or outsiders' side. One aspect is the point of view of the boys and their coach stranded in the cave. The film shows how malnourished the boys are and how scared they are to have been in the cave system for 18 days. It also shows the perspective of one newscaster broadcasting out to the world.
Where the two films differed the most is the subtitles and the foreign side of the story. The Thai farmers and Thai Navy SEALS were shown exclusively as the primary focus going into the first part of the film until the actual rescue shifts to the more British side of things. And the rescue effort to bring the boys and their coach out. One particular character was Jim (Jim Warny). He is the only one of the Brits that the film mainly focuses on, unlike Thirteen Lives.
This film uses pop-up graphics on the bottom left of the screen to inform the viewer about the timetable the film takes place in, but the way Thirteen Lives does it is better. Also, the camera work isn't as good as the style Ron Howard used in his film. The fast-paced storytelling is indicative of a smaller budget which shows in the end product. This film feels like an inferior version of this story to me.
The technical aspects of the film, from the camera work to the cinematography, aren't that great. They use a ticking clock to represent the pressure the divers are under, but it felt forced here. The other film just showed the difficulty of the situation and each moment that passed seemed to bring up the pressure as the movie went along. There is a clear difference in the quality of these two films.
The main reason I feel this film lacks in quality was that quite a bit of the story was typed out on a black backdrop for people to read instead of filming these scenes. This was a cop-out way to do a film. I know the budget couldn't have been very big because of all the ways this filmmaker cut corners. The other film didn't do that, and it showed in the end. It was a much better version of the harrowing tale of rescue and survival.
Cave Rescue tried being a good version of this story, but it felt lacking in quality from the beginning. The acting seemed second-rate, and the technical aspects from filmmaker Tom Waller, including mainly the camera work, weren't that good. It was unfocused and somewhat blurry at times. The film looked too dark where there should have been light, and the camera pushed in too much. Even though the film tells a very compelling story, its execution drags it down.
Cave Rescue hits theaters and VOD on August 5.