Talking Movies: The Stranger, The Trapped 13: How We Survived the Thai Cave and Gaia

Spling reviews The Stranger, The Trapped 13: How We Survived the Thai Cave and Gaia as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.


Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about a crime drama thriller, a documentary and an ecological horror thriller.

Starting off with a film now on Netflix…


A man with a dark secret is persuaded to join a criminal syndicate.

Writer-Director: Thomas M. Wright

Stars: Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris and Jada Alberts

– The Stranger is an epic and foreboding crime drama thriller that recalls films such as Seven, Heat, Sicario and Destroyer.
– A bleak, dark and mysterious world, Wright threads the story through a tense atmosphere as a man with a dark past is lured back into criminal activity.
– Centred on an unlikely partnership between an undercover cop and a murder suspect, a smart edit keeps things aloof and uncertain as the puzzle pieces lock into place.
– Loosely based on a true crime story about a man suspected of abducting and killing a boy, the fictionalised account leverages the 2003 incident as a springboard into the investigation rather than focusing on the crime itself.
– A taut cat-and-mouse game, The Stranger captures the intensity of the investigation and the ploys used to find evidence and corner the suspect.
– Carrying a similar emotional heft to Heat, the match up between its co-leads in Edgerton and Harris is one of the main reasons to see this Australian film.
– Elegant, enigmatic and seething, The Stranger makes a complex portrait of an uneasy working relationship between a lonesome criminal and an undercover cop who battles addiction, represses his true identity and feels the burden of being a Judas goat.
– First-rate performances, gripping crime drama, striking visuals and a familiar bleak, intense and moody atmosphere elevate this artful thriller.

It did just enough to get… an excellent 8 on the splingometer!

Moving on to a documentary now on Netflix…


Members of the Thai youth soccer team tell their stories of how they survived getting trapped in Tham Luang Cave in 2018.

Director: Pailin Wedel

– When a coach and his young team ventured into the caves near their village after a soccer practice, they had no idea they would become world famous.
– The Thai cave rescue captured the world’s attention, counting down the days until cave divers were able to determine whether it was a rescue or recovery mission.
– Miraculously, every single one of “The Trapped 13” were found alive, giving the whole world something to celebrate as we all heaved a sigh of relief.
– News agencies relayed reams of footage of the rescue operation as it intensified, battling against rising waters and the possibility of starvation as each hour and minute became more and more critical.
– The Trapped 13 gets the story from the survivors themselves, detailing the moments on the inside as they tried to survive and keep spirits high.***
– This comprehensive documentary presents the story from before the team entered the caves to well after their rescue.
– Recreating scenes inside the caves based on their collective testimonies, this vivid documentary focusses on the survivors and their families.
– Chronicling the massive rescue effort with day markers, the film covers setbacks and breakthroughs from both sides of the operation.
– It’s a powerful and heartfelt true story, detailing the dramatic events from finding a way to get to the stranded Wild Boars soccer team to figuring out how to get them out of the undulating underwater caverns alive.
– From heroic efforts and a captivating news story, The Trapped 13 captures a spectrum of emotion from a first-of-its-kind underwater rescue.
– Entertaining, engaging and venturing well beyond the news story to give an intimate account from the survivors themselves, this is an inspiring and remarkable documentary filled with empathy and goodwill.

An excellent 8 on the splingometer!

And finally a film on Showmax…


An injured forest ranger on a routine mission is rescued by two mysterious survivalists.

Director: Jaco Bouwer

Stars: Monique Rockman, Carel Nel and Alex van Dyk

– Taking an ecological slant, Gaia serves as a timely commentary on nature’s ability to thrive in the absence of human influence and intervention.
– Interrupted by the pandemic, the uncertainty filters into convincing performances from an intimate ensemble, some of South Africa’s finest acting talents.
– This stylish horror thriller starts off like a blend of Deliverance and Predator with a river expedition gone wrong, haunted by an indistinct and translucent forest being.
– Yet, this gritty and surreal horror thriller takes on a more claustrophobic feel as the forest blooms and the cabin’s walls close in to offer an elegant, cerebral, slow-burning and see-sawing dramatic standoff.
– While the atmosphere and power dynamics shift to create uneasiness, the characters remain wispy, existing purely as story devices.
– This helps cultivate some mystery but being so loosely drawn, it’s difficult to be fully immersed in the world of Gaia.
– What Gaia lacks in emotional connection, it makes up for with spellbinding fantasy visuals thanks to a sharp edit, award-winning cinematography and excellent make up and visual effects.
– Set against the lush Tsitsikamma forest, Gaia uses its location with a grotesque and organic ebb-and-flow between the real and fabricated.
– An atmospheric and visually-captivating eco horror thriller, it’s solid performances help anchor the slow-burning and surreal drama as the haunting predicament and suspenseful outcome of these invaders comes full circle.

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!

So just to wrap up…

THE STRANGER… a foreboding tone, strong performances and a gripping true story power this intense and elegant crime thriller… An excellent 8!

THE TRAPPED 13… a comprehensive, compelling, heartfelt and vivid documentary retelling of a miraculous true story from the survivors themselves… An excellent 8!

GAIA… a sharp cast, seamless visual effects and timely themes compel this visually-captivating ecological horror thriller… A satisfactory 6!

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And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!