‘The Impossible’, a film about the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, but is it too soon? Or better still, is it any good? Well, no and yes to those questions, in that order, ‘The Impossible’, is respectful, dark and features no end of cliche-driven dramatics, but manages to just about pull it off. A combination of wonderful performances not least by Naomi Watts and child-actor star Tom Holland, and amazing visuals, both CGI and real, mean that Juan Antonio Bayona’s film is at the very least a shocking piece, that at times wrestles with body horror, before bringing it back into the realms of ‘disaster’ movies and slightly ‘schmultzy’ dramas. I did, however, have a couple of gripes with the film on the whole, more of which later!
So, we begin with our heroes and heroine, on a plane to their infamous holiday destination of Thailand, on Christmas Eve 2004. We meet Maria (Watts), Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their trio of sons. Now, I may be being slightly overly-critical, but I really didn’t like them. The family are portrayed as a middle-class, British family, who mention living in Japan, such is the level of one of their job’s, and another sign of such wealth. Yet they are unhappy. The dad might lose his job, which might cause the mother to actually HAVE to work again after 7 years looking after her children, such horrible thoughts, working! And the kids are annoying, just annoying. Whilst you have a good 10 minutes or so backstory to the family, it didn’t make me care too much for them, but then again, maybe that was the point of it? To not portray a ‘Disney’-style film, where everything is perfect and people are perfect, when, obviously, not everybody is.
Throughout these 10 minutes, the audience is anticipating, knowing what is to come, but not knowing when, or what will occur from it. The moment the humongous wave appears on the horizon (my top picture to be precise), is breathtaking, but also horrifying, with the family seemingly stranded at meagre swimming pool as the sheer volume of water crashes down. I remember having goosebumps as this sequence progressed, with the impact caused by such a disaster harrowing, and reminding me of the real events that happened just 8 years ago.
The swirling waters provide such a scary backdrop, as the paradise of Thailand is reduced to reservoir in seconds, with the effects coming into action fantastically. As we see the devastation, we focus on Naomi Watts and her son, the two outstanding performers of the film, as they get battered and thrown about by the onslaught, becoming graphically damaged and injured, in a wincing manner. For a 12a, the graphic injuries sustained by Watts are incredible, and not in a good way. There were a couple of ‘ooh’ moments and it pushed the boundaries of what a 12a, nowadays, can do, and again, credit must go to the filmmakers, who could’ve played it safe during these traumatic scenes, but did give it a go, to make it seem as realistic as seemingly possible.
Regarding whether it’s too soon, after 9/11, a similarly crushing event, we saw ‘World Trade Center’ and ‘United 93′, made and shown well within the decade. Sure there’s bound to be controversy, survivors of the tsunami may find it too much, I’m sure some of the audience I was in did at times. I believe these events should be documented within a suitable time period though, purely so the level of emotion and the direct events can be archived for years to come.
Ewan McGregor, I’d heard he should’ve been up for an Oscar, which I’d disagree with massively. For a start, he’s barely even in the film, with long stretches dedicated to Naomi Watts and son, Tom Holland, and two, I don’t rate his performance as toppling them, or being the best of the year. Although, perhaps that’s because I’m not McGregor’s biggest fan!
Then the story takes a slight nosedive, as cliches kick in and the lucky way events happen, frustrating after such a good watch. There’s a point where it became ridiculous! If that’s how things genuinely happened, then fair enough, but it seemed so fabricated by film executives, for such things to occur. Another gripe was the way nationalities of the true survivors the story is based on, being changed from Spanish, hence the Spanish backing behind the project, to a more ‘globally-friendly’ British. It would’ve been nicer, more authentic and daring to see a Spanish language version of the film, that put away some of the cliches, and gave us a more realistic representation, with unknown actors. I can dream! I also, wasn’t a fan of how the family were the only ones highlighted in the events during and after the tsunami. Sure, we get mini glimpses into other white, European families, but the local Thai survivors serve only as emergency helpers, as doctors, as drivers, as first aiders. I would’ve liked more of a focus on the lives of these others,or at least a sense of caring. A man who helps McGregor’s character in his attempts to find his family, is seemingly left behind at a certain point, disappointing as he was of such great help to out ‘hero’.
Overall, the film is good. Upto a certain point, I loved it, that being said you don’t feel particularly good watching it, it’s daring, dark and harrowing at times. Then a couple of points, those above, slightly tarnished the film for me, it being very close to perfect!