The Thai cave rescue became one of the most talked about events in mass media after it happened. Such was the peculiarity of the situation, the whole world came together to rescue the boys. Since then, many filmmakers have taken on the challenge to dramatize the retelling. While some have used the structure of a documentary to enthrall us, others have taken the more dramatic route of a feature. The Trapped 13: How We Survived the Thai Cave is the second offering from Netflix in the span of two weeks on the rescue. While the first one was a six-part drama, this one is a straight-up documentary told by the trapped boys and coach Eak themselves.
The tempting part of the documentary is that there is minimal retelling and more of a new perspective shown to viewers. Survivor thriller stories often make that element the central conceit of storytelling. That is an exciting part that emotionally attaches the viewers to the trapped subjects.
There is a strange allure that you feel as a fellow human being. You instantly try to subrogate yourself in their circumstance and empathize with them. The Trapped 13 is also exciting because we see first-hand footage from the rescue and how the boys got into the cave for the first time.
To make it more consistent, makers have used a mock montage of events to dramatize the experiences. It is a nice touch as it gives continuity to the experience and visualizes what went inside the cave. All the boys and Eak appear in front of the camera and build upon the little cues that the outside world got into and how they really survived it. One of the many things that Eak did to help the boys was to ask them to meditate and calm themselves down. While many previous versions of the story drill home that point, when we hear it straight from the mouth of the boys, it hits the mark.
A series of other actors in the entire episode also make appearances. The screen time for the parents is increased and rightly so. Despite the heroic effort of the divers, the Governor, and the Navy SEALs, the other retellings prominently featured them.
Most of the boys who were trapped inside came from poor backgrounds. Their parents could hardly afford to miss work and spend time outside the cave to welcome their child back. They mention it with touching sincerity in the interviews. Your heart breaks to see what they had to go through and how they sacrificed everything to be united in praying to the spirits to get their children back.
Comparing this documentary with the dramatized Netflix series would be a tad unfair. Netflix was the only production company that was able to get in touch with the boys. They incorporated their inputs in the series, much of what you actually hear from them in the documentary.
What the documentary did have in a more endearing manner was the sense of innocence that comes with their age. Titan, Mix, and Mark, among others, mentioned how it was food they could think of predominantly while in there. Ordering a KFC and eating their favorite delicacies prepared by their mothers were among their deepest desires.
While there were fears and moments of despair, the boys generally kept themselves in good spirits because they were united. Playing football together or any team sport is an emboldening exercise that brings you closer to others in a caring way. That uniqueness of unity is brought out in their accounts. It is important to note that the boys who were part of a football team did make a difference.
In a segment, Eak explains how this aspect of the group brought them together. Tee, who was the team captain, shouldered the responsibility of looking after the kids, like Eak. He was an adult himself in dealing with them and helped out the coach a lot.
Without being intrusive, the documentary manages to get the zeal and spirit of the boys while they faced the camera. It is often tough to get that mix right but the makers of The Trapped 13 do. This is a completely different perspective you get to see from the rescue.
If you have been obsessed with the little details of the operation even after four years since it happened, this documentary is a smashing hit. Even for those unacquainted with the entire ordeal, The Trapped 13 has a fine-tuned sense of balance in setting up the backdrop and getting us the boys face to face.
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