Thirteen Lives

Posted on August 4, 2022 at 5:17 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some strong language and unsettling images
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Extended peril and tense rescue operations, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: Race and economic/nationality status issues
Date Released to Theaters: August 5, 2022

Copyright Imagine 2022
Twelve young boys. One coach. Seventeen days trapped. More than 5000 rescue workers from many countries. The eyes of the world were on Thailand’s Tham Luang cave in June and July of 2018 as a soccer team exploring a cave they knew well were trapped by a sudden early monsoon that flooded it before they could get out. One more number: two and a half miles. That is how far they were from the entrance, and for almost two weeks the cave was so impenetrable that no one knew if any of them were still alive.

“Rescue” is a fine documentary about the courage and dedication of the rescuers, especially the British and Australian volunteer race rescue divers who came up with an idea so dangerous and crazy it could only become an option when every other possibility was out of the question. Ron Howard’s feature film has excellent performances from Colin Farrell, Viggo Mortensen, and Joel Edgerton as the divers and skillful use of the camera to put us inside the narrow, claustrophobic passages of the cave with no visibility and terrifyingly swift currents. Like his best film which also plays into triskaidekaphobian fears, “Apollo 13,” this is a tick-tock tension movie, with smart people trying to solve dire, unprecedented problems under excruciating time pressure.

It is June 2018. The boys are playing soccer and talking about a SpongeBob birthday cake at an upcoming party. They ride their bicycles to the cave, with the “Sleeping Princess” shrine at the entrance. There should be plenty of time before monsoon season closes the cave until the fall. But there is not. A drenching rainstorm cuts off the exit and slowly, as the parents come looking for the boys, it is clear they are trapped inside.

The Thai Navy SEALS arrive, well-trained and courageous. But rescuing people from an ocean is very different from the highly specialized rescues of the volunteer cave divers. It turns out there is a small, dedicated, endlessly skillful and endlessly courageous group of people who are cave diving rescuers, including Rick Stanton (Viggo Mortensen), John Volanthen (Colin Farrell), and joining later, Richard “Harry” Harris (Joel Edgerton).

Given how much of the story is under murky water in a dark cavern filled with sharp points and tiny, twisty passages, Howard does a very good job of keeping us on top what is going on, how much time has passed, and how far we are from the tiny, precarious shelf where the boys and their coach are perched. For those who are not familiar with the details (though likely everyone is aware of the miraculous outcome) there are some dramatic twists and surprises to accompany the understated but immensely powerful story of the rescue divers. Americans will enjoy the classically British understatement that only underscores the breathtaking heroics of the story and the modesty and gratitude of the boys, the coach, and their families. The unquenchable hope, the remarkable resilience, and the cooperation of all involved, including the farmers who agreed to have their year’s crops wiped out so that water could be diverted from the cave are a story of uplift and the best that humanity has to offer.

Parents should know that this is a tense depiction of a dire real-life rescue involving children with some very high-risk choices. Characters are injured and killed and there is some strong language.

Family discussion: How did the group make the decision to take such a high-risk option? What were the biggest obstacles to the rescue other than the physical challenge of the water in the cave? What circumstances would make you fly halfway around the world to help people you’ve never met?

If you like this, try: the National Geographic documentary “The Rescue” and Ron Howard’s “Apollo 13”

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intheheartofthesea-300x162.jpg

In the Heart of the Sea

Posted on December 10, 2015 at 5:36 pm

Copyright 2015 Village Roadshow
Copyright 2015 Village Roadshow

Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is a brilliant novel about humanity, nature, obsession, power, and pretty much everything else, with a lot of technical information about whaling thrown in for good measure and metaphor. Nathaniel Philbrick’s acclaimed book about the tragic real-life whaling expedition that inspired Melville to write Moby Dick is In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. This film is director Ron Howard’s uneven attempt to give that story the mythic force of Melville’s tale (itself never adequately adapted for film).

Like Moby Dick, this is a story of man against nature, not just the powerful animals man tries to trap and kill but of man against the animalistic elements of his own nature. That is represented, as it so often is, by the conflict between two men. The captain of the Essex is George Pollard (Benjamin Walker). He and everyone on the shop know that he is captain only because he comes from a high-born shipping family. The first mate is Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth, with his “Rush” director), resentful of Pollard because he was promised the captain job and knows he is more qualified.

On the first night out, Pollard makes a point of cruelly describing Chase’s father’s time in prison to establish his superiority — and his willingness to use humiliation as a management tactic. In his desperation to establish his superiority, he does not realize that it makes him look thuggish and scared. It certainly does not inspire respect or loyalty. But Chase is determined to make it work. This time, if he meets his quota, he has it in writing that his next voyage will be as captain.

The whalers are under enormous pressure. Whale oil powers the world of the 1820’s (there is a clumsy hint that the world may be shifting to fossil fuels). Whaling ships go to sea for years at a time, traveling across the Atlantic to kill whales, extract the blubber, and melt it down.

Ships — whether on water or in space — are ideal settings for stories because they are isolated from the society at large. Everything is heightened because there is no way to leave and no recourse for support or appeal. But that intensity and drama is dissipated here with a useless framing story as author Melville (Ben Whishaw) tries to get the ship’s only survivor (Brendan Gleeson) to tell him what happened. The connection is awkwardly positioned against Moby Dick‘s narrative voice and unforgettable Job-like status as the sole survivor who can carry the story and the survivor character’s sympathetic wife is a distraction and her scenes suggest after-the-fact re-shoots.

Melville was wise to reshape the story. This version has gorgeous scenery, a moving score by Roque Banos, and superb special effects, but the power of the images is undercut by a story that tries to carry more meaning than it can hold.

Parents should know that this is a whaling saga with constant and intense peril and violence including fire, guns, storms, starvation, murder, cannibalism, and sinking ship, many characters injured and killed, brief strong language, and drinking and alcoholism.

Family discussion: Why did Pollard embarrass Chase on the first night out? What were the biggest differences between Pollard and Chase in the way they treated the men? Do you agree with Chase’s “abominable” decision?

If you like this, try: “The Perfect Storm” and Melville’s Moby Dick

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Action/Adventure Based on a book Based on a true story

Interview: Roque Banos, Composer of “In the Heart of the Sea”

Posted on December 2, 2015 at 3:32 pm

Roque Baños composed the haunting score for Ron Howard’s new film, “In the Heart of the Sea,” based on the real-life whaling expedition that inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. “I got involved at the very beginning of the shooting,” he told me in an interview. “My first conversation with Ron was before he started to shoot. We talked about many things of course but the most important words were like, ‘Roque, the music in this movie was going to be more than 50 percent of it.’ The music for him is another character of the movie. He treated us as another actor and we had conversations about emotions, the power represented on the whale. He wanted also a dramatic but also a very, very modern sound;, you didn’t want like an old school classic score.” There is one moment in the film where a sailor plays a genuine 18th century song on his guitar, but the score is not based on historical themes.

To convey the peril and passion of the story, Baños used a wide variety of instruments, from ethnic flutes to touch on the force of nature and the low sound, ancestral sound of the didgeridoo to represent the whale. There is an electric cello and orchestral guitars, “but the most unusual one was the percussion. I didn’t want to use the traditional percussion on the action scene. I wanted to use something special so then I asked Ron Howard if I could have everything they used from the ship for the shooting. Then they brought me everything that they had on the ship, even the sails, the sails, ropes, and hull, so we spent two days of recording a pallette of sounds that come from the ship. The whole ship was an instrument. So every percussion you hear on the music comes from the ship that we are seeing the picture. So another one that I will tell you, I was recording the sounds from nature like air, like water, the flow of water, the sound of the sea.” Putting all of those sounds together required a lot of mixing. “The whole thing was a like huge experiment. I didn’t know at the beginning how it was going to come out. I think there is always a way to combine extremely different instruments. I also created a big library of sounds so then I convert them into notes so then it could be used as music.”

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Behind the Scenes Composers

Featurette: “The Good Lie” the Faith of the Lost Boys of Sudan

Posted on October 7, 2014 at 11:37 am

The Good Lie” is a moving, inspiring story of Lost Boys (and a girl) from Sudan to immigrate to the US, a must-see for middle and high schoolers and their families.  This featurette takes us behind the scenes and focuses on the role that faith plays in the lives of these courageous survivors.

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Drama Inspired by a true story Spiritual films
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