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TIFF Review: ‘The Rescue’ Is an Incredible Testament to Human Faith and Compassion

Since March 2020, the news has been largely a demoralizing experience for many people around the world. As deniers downplay the COVID-19 pandemic and reject various preventative measures to curb a rising death toll, it’s easy to lose hope in humanity. But the news can also be a source of restored optimism, as was proved through one particular event in Northern Thailand in 2018. That incredible act of courage is documented in Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi new documentary The Rescue, which chronicles the heroic true story of a rescue mission to save a team of young footballers trapped in a cave.

As The Rescue recalls in harrowing detail, the nerve-wracking ordeal began following a routine practice session, when a soccer team decides to relax with one of their favorite hobbies – exploring the nearby Tham Luang Nang Non cave. With the monsoon still weeks away, the young boys (aged 11 to 16) and their coach were blissfully oblivious to the impending downpour of rain, which soon floods the cave and makes it inescapable. Upon realization of the precarious whereabouts of this missing group, the authorities are alerted and plans are quickly put into place to save them. But as the days go by and the world anxiously watches, it becomes increasingly clear that it would take nothing short of a miracle to bring them home.

What follows is a herculean 16-day effort involving thousands of local volunteers and hundreds of additional partners from around the world. As we meet the Thai Navy SEALs, British divers and many other fascinating characters along the way, we see humanity at its best. And through revealing interviews with some of those heroes and their loved ones, we get a keen understanding of both their vulnerability and bravery, as they share their feelings of self-doubt, despair and triumph. Furthermore, these “talking heads” serve to further add tension, by vividly describing the seemingly endless obstacles to the mission’s success.

Of course, a picture is worth a thousand words and The Rescue benefits from jaw-dropping footage that will have you looking on in “How’d they shoot that?” incredulity. And it’s all brilliantly assembled along with news footage, a pitch-perfect score and intermittent on-screen text to remind us of the dangerous passing of time. Even though we know the outcome, The Rescue will likely make you cry, cheer and teeter on the edge of your seat to very end. When the film finally arrives at its cathartic conclusion, it ultimately serves as a timely reminder of what we can achieve through faith, ingenuity and genuine compassion for our fellow man.

SCORE: ★★★1/2


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Written by Shane Slater

Shane Slater is a passionate cinephile whose love for cinema led him to creating his blog Film Actually in 2009. Since then, he has written for, and The Spool. Based in Kingston, Jamaica, he relishes the film festival experience, having covered TIFF, NYFF and Sundance among others. He is a proud member of the African-American Film Critics Association.

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