Watch this if you’re mainly interested in the POV of the rescuers and the expert knowledge they possess about cave diving, but I’d recommend the other dozen or so docs if you want a more local and Thai-centric focus.
As a result of the miraculous success of the famed Tham Luang cave rescue, which saw the return of 12 kids trapped in a cave for more than 15 days, you’ll find no shortage of documentaries about the mission. Some take the point of view of the children, even others the locals and loved ones. But National Geographic’s The Rescue largely focuses on the volunteer rescuers, all of whom were foreigners who flew from different parts of the globe to risk their lives for the young victims. The film dives into their personal lives and their psyches, even going so far as their childhood to explain the motivations behind the heroic decisions they made at that moment. In less deft hands, The Rescue might seem like yet another White Savior Complex story, but directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (the same creative couple behind the Oscar-winning doc Free Solo) prove that the divers’ expertise, skill, and personal stakes make for a story worth telling.
You’d hardly think reenactments were used given how precise and realistic the scenes look. But Chin and Vasarhelyi did call up some of the real-life rescuers and had them relive the mission, this time more safely in a pool. Well-shot and believably acted, these scenes enliven the documentary and make it all the more memorable, instead of cheapning it as some reenactments are wont to do. Coupled with actual body-cam footage taken by the divers and soldiers, captivating folklore animation, and informative infographics, The Rescue is as visually stunning as it is heartwarming.