The Impossible

The-Impossible

There’s a moment of pure helplessness in The Impossible. It happens when the characters are swimming and splashing in the hotel pool, unaware of the increasing wind and the fleeing birds. And then they see it – or rather, they see hundred foot palm trees being toppled by an invisible steamroller. The wave. Everyone stands still for a moment. It’s inevitable. It will hit them. And there’s nothing they can do about it.

The tsunami sequence is devastating and horrific. The actors are tossed around like rag dolls and the speed of the water makes every object into a potential life-ending weapon. The worst injury in the film comes from one character running into a branch. Yes, just a plain old branch. It’s terrifying to watch in a film – and unimaginable to think about what it was like in real life.

The Impossible is based on a single family’s survival of one of the most devastating natural disasters in history. It is not an exhaustive account of the 2004 tsunami, nor does it attempt to be. Following the old adage that “one death is a tragedy, one thousand is a statistic,” the film focuses its efforts on a single, personal level to sustain a gripping and emotional tale throughout its running time. This isn’t to say that the disaster is overlooked on the grand scale – there are many shots of the ravaged landscape, overcrowded hospitals, and conversations with other survivors who aren’t as hopeful that their families are still alive. It’s just framed in way to be a singular experience, as it should be. I don’t think a single film could ever encompass everything that happened on that day, or act as the seminal tome of the event.

I always find it hard to talk about the acting or technical aspects of a “good” film. I firmly believe that when a movie works, the “strings” (plotting, editing, special effects, etc.) are invisible. What that means is that you forget that your watching a movie because you’re so drawn to the story. Of course, that reaction to a film is entirely based on the complex interaction of the “strings” evoking that response. For me, it just seems like there’s nothing left to say. The acting is fantastic, the effects and editing are great, and the plot moves briskly. It’s an amazing film.

The Impossible is a hopeful story. There aren’t any contrived “twists” (i.e. There are no thugs/looters taking advantage of the state of emergency and threatening the survivors) and each character is just trying to help others, in whatever way they can. It’s simply about surviving the worst possible day in your life. And the film presents a version of humanity in contrast to that seen on the daily news: that when everything is stripped away, we’re fundamentally good.

Grade: A

Sidenote: There’s been some bashing that The Impossible is “whitewashed” for changing the nationality of the central family from Spanish to English – despite not changing anything else. It’s entirely misguided and missing the point. Especially since the actual survivors do not seem to take issue with it (the mother actually chose Naomi Watts to play her, according to Wikipedia).

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2 Responses to The Impossible

  1. Nostra says:

    Great review and I completely agree with your thoughts on it, currently my favorite movie of the year.

  2. Julia Turnbull says:

    Another incredible review. I found the movie compelling and unforgettable.

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