Although there are certainly two sides to every story, just how vastly different things look from either side completely depends on the situation. When it comes to the stomach-churning true story behind Netflix’s new limited series Thai Cave Rescue, those two sides are exceedingly literal. There’s the boys soccer team and coach trapped in a flooded cave system after a routine exploration—on the other end of a complex series of tunnels through bedrock, there’s the elite rescue team of divers dedicated to bringing them home.
The real-life flooding of the Tham Luang cave system occurred in 2018, less than a decade after a high-profile rescue in a Chilean mine similarly gripped the world. Twelve members of the Wild Boars boys soccer team, all between the ages of 11 and 16, and their coach became trapped in the caves amid flooding and heavy rain. Over the course of the next 17 days, an international rescue effort that involved nearly 100 Thai and foreign divers (not to mention Navy SEALS) forged on until every one of the missing thirteen was rescued from the cave.
Thai Cave Rescue: Limited Series | Official Trailer | Netflix
In the first trailer for the miniseries, directed by Thai filmmakers Kevin Tancharoen and Baz Poonpiriya, the potential of telling this story in an episodic, semi-biographical format feels enormous. Although Jimmy Chin’s 2019 documentary on the ordeal The Rescue is both deft and riveting, the ability of a semi-biographical series to include scenes of the team together adds to the emotional wallop of the story.
However, fictionalizing the story of a real-life group of survivors has inherent authenticity problems, and can lean exploitative. Per a release, Thai Cave Rescue aims to avoid the pitfalls of prestige-ifying ogled-over trauma (a very pointed side glance here to Ron Howard’s recent go at the story, Thirteen Lives) by relying on interviews and insights from the real Wild Boars to build their characters. Some scenes were even shot at the boys’ real homes, using real props from their lives. So to avoid exploitation, the creators blurred the line between the real boys’ lives and that of their onscreen counterparts? Problem potentially not solved here?
Any pre-release qualms aside, however, the trailer previews what looks to be an expansive and detailed chronicling of the rescue, the real heart of which lies in the international relationships that made it successful. Despite the high-stakes setting, those weeks in Tham Luang are now best remembered for the endlessly hopeful camaraderie of the team and the fervent dedication of the rescue squad, one of whom lost his life while searching for the boys. If the series can properly eulogize that heroic act—and the overarching heroism it took for groups on both sides of the cave system to make it out alive—it will definitely warrant a watch.
Thai Cave Rescue will be available for streaming on Netflix starting on September 22.