The Cave is the (only) film about children trapped in the Thai cave

The Cave is the (only) film about children trapped in the Thai cave

A week after the rescue of the WildBoars football team, six productions announced that they wanted to tell the story. In the end, only one delivered "the task". Rating: very good. The reconstruction of events is flawless, gracefully fictionalized

In 2018, for two weeks, the news of the children of the Thai football team WildBoars was at the top of the world headlines: first the disappearance in a cave, then the fact that after four days they were all still alive and finally the next 10 to extract them safely with the help of experts from every corner of the planet. Everyone had sensed, then, that there was the potential for a film. And in fact, a month later, six productions were already work. Today, however, two and a half years later, only one film has made it to the goal (a series, co-produced by Netflix, is still in the pipeline).

Tom Waller is the producer and director of The Cave, a film of pure impeccable reconstruction of events, gracefully fictionalized, which even involves several people who have actually taken part in the enterprise as themselves. It is a very sober American-style title (given the emotional charge of the story), entirely on the side of divers flocked from all over the world, but in particular from Ireland (a country that co-produces the film together with Thailand). The shots are, however, quite daring, inside the caves (not the real ones), underwater and around. Obviously, everything is aimed at telling the local indomitable spirit and the solidarity of the planet.

The Cave, available for hire on the main platforms, is the story of a project with an announced triumph. The first production company to jump on it was Universal, just a few weeks after the news. The idea was to make it into a big film directed by Jon M. Chu, a solid Hollywood craftsman with the Asian and world success of Crazy & Rich (Crazy Rich Asians) behind him. A good man for the United States and with great Eastern credentials, taken with the aim of avoiding the accusations of whitewashing, that is, of favoring white or at least Western cast and creative teams for a story that is rather Asian. Universal was immediately joined by those of Pure Flix, a production company specializing in religious-themed films, which had a clear angle of the story and where to go.

Already from these two examples it is clear that in short it was necessary for the Thai government, through the Ministry of Culture, to create a dedicated commission to supervise, manage and control foreign companies intent on trying to pool capital to tell the story. Tom Waller's luck is to have a double American and Thai passport, and to be able to move easily in both countries and in both "systems". In his curriculum, then, there is also having worked as a location scout in Thailand for foreign productions.

Since the priority of the government was to limit the approach to the children protagonists, Waller has chosen to focus on the international rescue team. In fact, in The Cave, after a short prologue, the young people of the soccer team (played by actors) enter the cave with few premises and without particular explanations. There they soon end up trapped and the bulk of the dialogue and plot takes place outside, between journalists' vans and people arriving to help. The result is a film in the style of Peter Berg, the director who in the US tells and romances real local heroic situations (Deepwater - Hell over the ocean, Boston - Manhunt), based on news and facts.

The only real known actor of The Cave is Ekawat Niratworapanya, Thai star of romantic films, in the role of the team's manager. It is no coincidence that saving him takes a longer time and provides more suspense than the others. The second local celebrity is Jumpa Saenprom, a traditional singer who plays a peasant girl proud to help. For the rest it is quite clear that the American journalist interprets himself as the divers, who do not act but only try to be spontaneous, involuntarily managing to bring a strong charge to the images. Certain faces, certain bodies out of the ordinary and certain expressions (even if minimal) have the flavor of docu-fiction done well and real hard work. In short, The Cave is made by involving the people who have been there, and thus tries so hard to get closer to reality to give it the mythical reading of cinema, the suspense and the narrative arc full of pride that no one intends to disguise.

In reality, the entire rescue operation involved 10,000 people and more than 100 divers, 100 government agencies and hundreds of volunteers and police officers, not counting the approximately 2,000 soldiers. They are not all represented and the idea does not pass from the film that there were so many people at work. But it's fine. We repeat, it is a fictionalized version with great awareness of how cinema works, based on action, which explains well the difficulty of the moment, the risks and techniques of rescue, celebrates those who have to celebrate and - while using structures and clichés of Hollywood - keeps a very strong Thai soul.

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