Review: ‘The Rescue’ highlights power within ones community


Photo credit: National Geographic Promotional Image

The rescue team races through the narrow walls of the cave in search of the boys soccer team. The inspiring documentary, “The Rescue,” follows a Thailand boys soccer team’s escape through floods and disasters.

By Rose Sarner, Culture Editor

An against-all-odds story that shines a light on the high-risk world of cave diving, “The Rescue,” tells the captivating story of the 2018 Thailand Cave Rescue. Released in 2021, the film was produced by National Geographic and is now streaming on Disney +.

The film was brought to life by directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin whose last documentary, “Free Solo,” made headlines across the world as it redefined sports, athleticism and the power of films; the documentary made over 29.3 million dollars and won seven Emmy Awards. The directors did not stop there. 

On June 23, 2018, twelve 11 to 16-year-old soccer players and their 25-year-old coach ventured into the Tham Luang cave in Northern Thailand. Quickly after they entered, heavy rain flooded the caves and blocked their way of escaping. After two weeks of zero contact and flood season worsening, the cave rescue expanded to an international effort drawing upon skilled drivers like John Volanthen and Rick Stanton, Thai Navy SEALs and more than 10,000 experts. 

The documentary is told through embedded interviews, reenactments, informative data points and contemporary footage to share perspectives of those involved in the rescue mission and immerse the viewer in the high-stakes operation. The variety of film techniques extended the film’s narrative beyond a rescue mission, and it became a story about community effort.

The contemporary footage and interviews with various members of the rescue team emphasized the power of individuals in disparate nations uniting behind a common goal. I enjoyed watching real interviews that brought to life each professionals feelings during the intense rescue mission.

During the rescue, days went by with no hope until July 2 ,when Stanton and Volanthen finally ventured through flooded narrow tunnels with heavy scuba suits on their back and found the soccer team hungry, cold, yet still alive. 

Through real life video clips of Thai Navy team members’s meetings discussing the risk of this rescue, viewers are immersed in high pressure meetings and efforts, which made the film more engaging and exciting for those watching at home.

Now, if getting to this point was not already challenging enough, this against-all-odds story becomes more and more daring. Heavy rain continues to pick up, rescue teams begin pumping water from the cave system and the team estimates it will take six hours for every boy to escape the cave. Now, six times the 13 people trapped in the cave — that is 78 hours for the entire operation.

At every point of the film there are striking plot twists that include injuries of community members, weather barriers and more that keep viewers on their toes. In addition to these plot twists, the writers introduce new filming techniques in order to keep the audience engaged. For example, they introduce go-pro footage that makes viewers feel like they are living through this high stakes journey in real time.

Although I enjoyed the contemporary footage and interviews which emphasized the strength communities have when coming together, including multiple re-enactment clips felt forces and ruined the flow and emotions of the story.

“The Rescue” not only illustrates a thrilling event, but also demonstrates the power of good story telling. From the variety of filming techniques to highlighting various communities, “The Rescue” provides an all encompassing experience for viewers.

  • Story
  • Acting
  • Technical Quality
  • Enjoyment
  • Impact


National geographic’s documentary, “The Rescue,” released in 2021, tells the story of the 2018 Thailand cave rescue. Shedding light on the inspiring community that came together in pursuit of rescuing the 12 boys and their soccer coach who were stuck in the caves, this documentary is a must watch.