By Wendy Knowlton
8 December 2021
The clash between pessimism and belief generates the main tension in The Rescue.
Almost no one involved in the operation to save the 12 members of the Thai soccer team and their coach believed anyone would emerge alive from the deep, flooded cave system in which they were trapped. British divers had located the group after days of dangerous searching, but initial euphoria was quickly overwhelmed by waves of hopelessness. The deaths of some or even all, seemed inevitable.
The fact that one of the Thai Navy Seals involved in the attempt did die, is a sobering reminder that these fears were justified.
We all know the end of this story, but that doesn’t matter. The tale is still riveting because the impossible happened.
As the “how” is revealed, a feeling of disbelief persists. So much had to go right. And, at every point, when most had mentally given up, someone had to believe. At different times, different people did believe, transforming tragedy into triumph.
Central to this documentary is the group of recreational cave divers who did what the trained Navy Seals could not.
Watching the film is an engrossing, and chillingly claustrophobic, experience. Real footage is interspersed with re-enactments carried out by those involved. The murky waters, narrow passages and eerie isolation are captured in a way that makes the audience question why anyone would cave dive as a hobby.
The volunteer divers themselves were drawn from all over the world. These quiet, largely middle-aged, unassuming men, came into their own here, doing what no one else could.
Quite apart from the physical demands of the rescue, the divers faced the very real possibility of public outrage and legal actions if they failed. Screens were set up in anticipation of disaster and body bags were waiting. An exit plan was devised to get the volunteers out of a country that could have blamed them for a risky and untried strategy. It was a strategy that saw each boy given an anaesthetic that could have killed them, before they were brought out individually. Their masks could have flooded and caused them to drown, they could have woken and panicked, or the monsoonal rains could have defeated the work of the pumps, washing everyone away into the darkness.
As their coach kept the boys calm through meditation, a nation prayed.
The size of the operation required to help answer those prayers was enormous. It was only through cooperation and belief in the tentative hopes of all involved that waiting ambulances could finally rush the rescued boys to hospital, just as the tunnels were completely submerged by waters that did not recede for eight months.
The Rescue is an amazing story of resilience and persistence. It depicts a spirit of international teamwork and personal faith that made a miracle possible.
The Rescue is showing at Cameo Cinemas Belgrave, Cinema Nova Carlton, and Classic Cinemas Elsternwick.