13 Lost: The Untold Story of the Thai Cave Rescue (2020)

’13 Lost: The Untold Story of the Thai Cave Rescue’ (2020)

13 Lost is a documentary about the unsung diving team that defied life-threatening conditions to lay the line to rescue the Wild Boars soccer team in the Thai cave rescue. This gripping film shows the bravery and calmness of these men under duress, and the technical expertise that kept them alive.

Aug-2022 Note: Click this link if you are looking for my review of Ron Howard's Thirteen Lives (2022). 

According to the NY Times, 200 divers from around the world participated in the entire rescue effort. Raimund Huber’s film centers on the small team of divers who braved the mission early on.

A small team lays the path

Ruengrit Changkwanyuen, aka Pae, is an American working for GM in Thailand and an amateur cave diver. He connected with the Thai Navy Seals, who knew nothing about cave diving. He became the dive supervisor and recruited the expert cave divers to join the Seals effort. The Seals had no cave equipment and did not know the techniques, so Pae and his team taught the Seals how to lay line and communicate by signals underwater. The British team had already arrived but had not gotten very far.

Belgian local Ben Reymenants describes how his first effort took him 2.5 hours to climb from the entrance to Chamber 3. That climb alone took Ben to his physical limits, partially due to the low oxygen levels. The cave was also hot and humid, but the water was cold and flowing fast like the Colorado River. When he gets to the dive point, he jumps in even though it is like diving into a whirlpool of cappuccino. He gets entangled in the many cables and hoses that have been laid down. He tells the Thai admiral it is too dangerous, and he stops.

But later at around the 8th day, Ben realizes that the Thai Navy Seals are continuing to dive. They had agreed not to dive if the cave experts were diving. So Ben’s team decides to dive just to keep the Seals from diving and risking their lives. French-Ukranian expat Maksym Polejaka (Max) and Ben become the team that will figure out the critical path and lay the line past the crucial T-junction in the cave.

Visibility ranges from zero to 0.5 meter (the distance at which you can still see your hands while tying off the line). Max and Ben almost get stuck in a small restriction, but they save their own lives. But Max goes back to retrieve his light and finds the correct path to Pattaya Beach, where they believe the boys are. They lay the rest of their line and go back.

If you have a mission, never stop. Slowly, and you can reach.

Diver Maksym Polejaka (Max)

At this point, the British team has started to work with them. In Chamber 3, Max and Ben tell the British that they have passed the T-junction. From there it is only 300 meters — one dive — to Pattaya Beach, and Brits Richard Stanton and John Volanthen become the first to reach the boys.

The rescue mission

This film ends with the discovery of the boys, but the rescue effort spent another 10 days getting them out. That was just as dangerous, and as a world we should be thankful that good people rise to such occasions, much like healthcare workers are doing for the pandemic today.

For good documentation on the entire mission and the rescue, refer to the NY Times article and the Nova film Thai Cave Rescue. There is no soccer in 13 Lost, but I am reviewing it for the same reason as the Nova review — it is going to show up in a lot of soccer searches. In addition, I found 13 Lost to be a nail-biting explanation of the Thai cave diving rescue, equivalent to an underwater version of the Oscar-winning Free Solo.

The film is streaming on Amazon Prime in the USA and on youtube.

Update on Jan-4-2022: The Rescue (2021) from the makers of the afore-mentioned Free Solo, may be the best film about the Thai cave rescue.

Update on Aug-25-2022: You may have found this review because you were looking for Ron Howard’s Thirteen Lives (2022). His film is a big-budget dramatic reenactment of the Thai cave rescue.

8 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 8