True story of Thailand cave rescue hitting big screen in Ron Howard's 'Thirteen Lives'

Director Ron Howard on the set of "Thirteen Lives." | Vince Valitutti

The inspiring true story of the 12 boys and soccer coach who got trapped in the Tham Luang cave and the team of experts that concocted a daring rescue attempt is hitting the big screen in a Ron Howard-directed feature titled "Thirteen Lives."

In 2018, the world was captivated by the story of 12 boys who, along with their soccer coach, were trapped inside a cave in Thailand with seemingly little chance of escape. 

The boys, ranging in age from 11 to 16, and their coach were eventually rescued from the flooded cave in the Chiang Rai province thanks to the ingenuity and bravery of a team of experts, including 19 divers.

Following the rescue, the Christian parents of one of the boys credited God for the team's safe recovery.

Now, their story is hitting the big screen in a feature film directed by Howard, the Oscar-winning director behind "Hillbilly Elegy" and "A Beautiful Mind."

Starring Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell and Joel Edgerton, the film opens in theaters on July 29 before landing on Amazon Prime Video on Aug. 5.

In a press conference preceding the film's trailer and poster reveal, Howard reflected on the faith of the boy's parents and the bravery of the rescue team.

"The epicenter of (the story) was the caves and the boys and the coach and the intensity and focus of that rescue," he told reporters. "Very cinematic and intense and suspenseful and I wanted to capture that. But there was incredible involvement in other places, people taking real risks, physical risks, emotional risks, as the stakes kept getting higher and higher — up on the mountain trying to divert the water, trying to keep the system going. The parents doing everything they could, on an emotional level, on a spiritual level, everything they could think about. The more I learned about the story, the more dimensional it could be."

Thirteen Lives | Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc

Howard, who shot to fame as a child actor playing Opie Taylor on "The Andy Griffith Show," previously told The Christian Post he's drawn to stories that are both complex and unite viewers over a shared experience.

"They're sort of one and the same," he said. "I felt like [when we] understand and look at things with a perspective of shared humanity, there's a value in that."

According to the film synopsis, "Thirteen Lives" will recount how the team, the Wild Boars, became trapped during an unexpected rainstorm. 

"Faced with insurmountable odds, a team of the world's most skilled and experienced divers — uniquely able to navigate the maze of flooded, narrow cave tunnels — join with Thai forces and more than 10,000 volunteers to attempt a harrowing rescue of the twelve boys and their coach. With impossibly high stakes and the entire world watching, the group embarks on their most challenging dive yet, showcasing the limitlessness of the human spirit in the process," the synopsis adds. 

One of the rescued teens, Adul "Adun" Samon, shared with Compassion International how his faith sustained him during the harrowing experience.

"By the 10th night, we were losing patience, hope, physical energy and courage," he said in a 2019 interview. "We could not do anything to help [the situation]. The only thing that I could do was to pray. I prayed, 'Lord, I'm only a boy. You are almighty God, You are holy and You are powerful. Right now I can't do anything. May You protect us, come to help us all 13.'"

He recalled the pivotal moment the divers finally reached the group, shined a flashlight up, and asked members of the Wild Boars, "How many of you?"

The only English speaker in the group, Adun recalled answering, "13."

"Help came from God during the hardest time," Adun said. "I very intently prayed, and God answered me with His help. It was me and God together facing that situation, and I am thankful to Him for helping me get out of the cave."

Watch the trailer for "Thirteen Lives" below.

Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at:

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