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TIFF Review: ‘The Rescue’ is a Deep Dive Into the Sport of Cave Diving and Its Role in a Life-Saving Mission

September 20, 2021Ben MK

Known for its tropical climate, picturesque beaches and stunning architecture, Thailand is a place that draws millions of visitors every year thanks to the many tourist-worthy attractions to be found above ground. Yet, for all the beauty and wonder the country offers to those looking for conventional activities to do on their vacation, it also has plenty to offer those willing to explore a little deeper, thanks to its network of spectacular, underground caves.

In June of 2018, however, those same caves proved to be just as treacherous as they are awe-inspiring, when the Wild Boars youth soccer team became trapped in Chiang Rai's Tham Luang cave following heavier-than-anticipated rains that arrived in advance of the country's typical monsoon season. The ensuing mission to save the 13 boys between the age of 11 and 16 and their coach involved thousands of volunteers and captured the attention of the world for a suspenseful 17 days. And in The Rescue, directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin revisit the harrowing operation in painstaking detail, using footage of the actual events, dramatic recreations, and interviews with some of the rescue team's key participants, including cave explorer Vern Unsworth and cave divers John Volanthen, Rick Stanton, Connor Roe, Richard Harris and Ben Reymenants.

What follows not only proves to be one of the most compelling human interest stories in recent memory, it's also an intriguing look at the sport of cave diving itself. Much like what Vasarhelyi and Chin did with their previous documentary, Free Solo, The Rescue is a deep dive into one of the world's most dangerous pastimes, not to mention a journey into the psyche of those willing to risk their lives for the thrill — or, in this case, the lives of others.

The Rescue screens under the TIFF Docs programme at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 54 min.

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