Is The Rescue a True Story? Is the Documentary Based on Thai Cave Rescue?

Directed and produced by Academy Award-winning couple Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, ‘The Rescue’ follows the incredibly enthralling tale of a daring rescue of thirteen individuals from inside a flooded cave in northern Thailand. By chronicling the tireless efforts put in by experts and volunteers alike, who stepped in to offer aid from all across the globe, this documentary shines a light upon not only the dangers of cave walking but also the meaning of humanity. So now, if you are wondering if this movie is authentic, we’ve got all the details for you!

Is The Rescue Based on a True Story?

Yes, ‘The Rescue’ is based on a true story. It explores the summer 2018 Tham Luang Cave Rescue, which transpired when a junior association football team got stuck within. In the Chiang Rai Province, Thailand, when a local crew of 12 boys (aged 11-16) and their 25-year-old assistant coach finished practice on June 23, they entered Tham Luang Nang Non to walk back home. However, heavy rainfall partly flooded the cavern and blocked out their exit, stranding them in the worst place imaginable at that time. What ensued was a long yet extraordinary rescue.

We say extraordinary because it comprised efforts by over 10,000 people, including officials from the Royal Thai Navy SEALs, US Air Force, divers, a set of medical experts, police deputies, and soldiers, amongst many more. About a billion liters of water were also pumped from the caves. Even Elon Musk had offered to help, but unlike some other volunteers like him, the directors did not cover or interview the business magnate for their project. They told Yahoo! Entertainment their reasoning, stating, “There were a lot of well-intentioned people, and not all of them make the film.”

“They have to add to the narrative in a way that’s meaningful to move the story forward,” Jimmy said. “Those are the editorial choices that you make as a filmmaker.” Elizabeth further admitted, “There’s so much to the story, and there were a lot of people who volunteered.” Therefore, as they didn’t want to take away the heart of the incident, they didn’t include everyone. With that said, the directors did speak with the British divers who actually found and rescued the football team, highlighting their first-person narratives with recreations and never-before-seen actual footage.

As for the actual people who were successfully rescued from the cave by experts without any severe injuries between July 8-10, 2018, they weren’t featured in the documentary either. “We did everything in our power to try and get some access to them,” Elizabeth told Variety, “but it didn’t end up working out.” Their story is examined in complete detail, though, including how they survived with no supplies for days and how they were found on an elevated rock just 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) away from the cave’s mouth on July 2. The authorities then had to decide whether to rescue them by drilling another exit or from under the water.

In the end, they went ahead with the latter choice in fear of the monsoon striking once again. Each boy was dressed in a wetsuit, sedated with anti-anxiety drugs, and finally maneuvered by divers to safe ground. They had cylinders with 80% oxygen strapped to their fronts for extra measure. The sedation was deemed a little controversial, yet doctors have claimed that it was necessary to avoid panic and unwarranted complexities. Dr. Richard Harris, an anesthetist who sedated the team, had a go-pro on him, so the footage we see of that process in the documentary, along with much of the incredible rescue, is genuine as well.

Elizabeth conceded to Deadline, “[‘The Rescue’ is] true to the story to talk about how lots of different places, different languages, came together to rescue children they didn’t know. That is the essence of the story. If you look back at 2018, one of the reasons why this story was so popular is we were living in really divided times and here was an example of how people could cooperate or be their best selves.”

Read More: Is The Rescue on Any Streaming Platform?