Thirteen Lives Ending Explained: Do All the 12 Boys Make it Out Alive?

Image Credit: Vince Valitutti/MGM

Amazon Prime’s ‘Thirteen Lives’ is based on the true story of a rescue operation that involved thousands of people working together to help thirteen people in getting out of a flooded cave. Directed by Ron Howard, the film traces the story from the beginning and lays out all the challenges faced by the rescuers in simple terms. It becomes clear pretty early on that this is a rescue unlike any that’s been attempted before, and everyone knows that the chances of success are next to none. Out of thirteen people trapped inside, if even a single one is brought out alive, the operation would be considered a success. However, that still leaves the question of how to go about it. How to save even one life when the race is against Mother Nature? What happens to the thirteen people? How many of them are brought out alive? Let’s find out. SPOILERS AHEAD

Thirteen Lives Plot Synopsis

Twelve boys and their football coach decide to visit the Tham Luang cave following their soccer practice. It is also the birthday of one of the boys and they decide to celebrate it in the cave before they go home and attend the party. As they walk deeper inside the cave, unbeknownst to them, rain starts to pour outside. When they don’t return by the evening, the authorities are alerted, and soon a huge number of people converge outside the cave to find ways to help in the rescue.

Getting trapped over a mile inside a flooded cave isn’t a good sign for anyone. For twelve children to survive was considered next to impossible. When Rick Stanton arrives on the scene and looks at the state of the cave entrance, he becomes very skeptical about calling it a rescue rather than the retrieval of dead bodies. He has been on other rescues where people have been unable to survive under extreme circumstances, some of those people being trained divers. While John Volanthen tries to hold on to hope, Rick is ready to witness whatever state they find the boys in. And that’s why he’s in for a surprise.

It is nothing short of a miracle that for nine days the twelve boys and their young coach not only manage to stay alive but are also in a comparatively fair condition. For anyone, to be stuck in the claustrophobic environment of a cave with rising water levels in pitch darkness is enough to lose their mind. The boys, on the other hand, seem very calm and in control of their sanity when Rick and John find them. The reason behind this is their coach. Being the only adult amongst them, he stays calm and furthers that state of mind to his team. He teaches them to meditate, which allows them to let go of their fear, as much as possible.

The team and its coach had no idea when, if at all, they’d be found. They knew how many days had passed since they were out in sunlight, but with water coming in from every opening and crevice, the hope of being discovered was falling with every day. Luckily, some very experienced divers from all over the world arrive for their help. The boys and the coach are found and fed, which lifts their spirits, but it still leaves the rescuers with a question: how to get thirteen people with no experience in diving and very high chances of panicking out of the cave? This question hits Rick as soon as he and John find the thirteen souls. They managed to stay alive, but how can they possibly dive their way out of a very treacherous cave? The one that’s already claimed a life?

Thirteen Lives Ending: Does Everyone Make it Out Alive?

When all ideas seem to be useless, Rick proposes something that is just as dangerous but has some margin of success. He’s well aware of the fact that there is no way the boys can dive out of the cave. Even if divers tried to bring them out, it was a very taxing task that required a person to be calm under all circumstances. Previously, Rick had tried to bring a man, who could swim, out of the cave. The process got the man hurt and nearly killed Rick. He knew that the boys would never be able to stay as calm as was necessary for hours on end, especially underwater with strange men they had no reason for trusting. Most of them couldn’t even swim, which would give them another reason to panic as soon they stepped into the water.

Considering all this, it seemed only logical to sedate the boys and then carry them like any other cargo. The divers would be in full control of the boys and even if a situation got particularly frightening, at least they wouldn’t have a panicked person dragging them down. However, they needed to know the right combination of drugs that would not only keep the boys unconscious throughout the dive but also be safe for them, lest they die mid-way. This could only be figured out by someone with an experience in both diving as well as sedatives. Luckily, Rick knew just the man.

Dr. Harry Harris was one of the only people in the world to have the right skills for the task. However, when Rick calls him, he doesn’t tell him what he’s planned for the rescue. Harry comes to Thailand in the capacity of a diver, but when he discovers that he has been called for his expertise in anesthetics, he becomes unsure of the entire thing. Soon, however, he realizes that there is no other better way, and if they don’t act soon, whatever hope remains of saving the boys will be lost as well. Reluctantly, he agrees to administer the dose to the kids.

Image Credit: Vince Valitutti/MGM Pictures

Owing to their experience, Rick, John, Harry, and their diver friends Chris Jewell and Jason Mallinson are considered the best choice for carrying the boys out of the cave. They take the target of rescuing four each day, with Harry staying behind till the last boy of the day is sedated and brought out. While everyone is unsure of the plan, they are surprised to discover that it actually works. Jason takes the first kid out, and though he struggles a bit in the middle, he safely gets the boy out of the cave. This boosts their morale and for the next seven boys, the dive goes considerably smoothly.

Things get more difficult on the third day when it starts to rain cats and dogs. They realize that this is their last chance to get not just the boys but everyone else out too. This includes the coach, one doctor, and two Navy Seals still inside the cave. There is also the problem with the gear that is too big for the youngest boy. Jason finds a way for it to fit around enough and takes him out. To his relief, they don’t come across problems on the way and the boy survives. While two other boys are taken out safely, Chris finds a reason to panic when he loses touch with the rope that guides the way. If it was just him, he wouldn’t have worried so much. But with a boy’s life in his hands, he starts to get nervous. Still, he manages to stay calm enough to get himself and the boy to the chamber where he soon meets others.

When Harry finds Chris, he decides that the best course of action would be for him to take over the boy for the rest of the dive. Eventually, all the boys and the coach make it out alive, along with the doctor and the two Navy Seals. So, while in the beginning, the divers had hoped to get at least one person out of the cave alive, they succeed in rescuing all thirteen of them.

Read More: Is Thirteen Lives Based on a True Story?