Movie Review: The Impossible (2012)

Posted: August 9, 2014 in Documentary
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the impossible

Henry (Ewan McGregor) works for a Japanese company, and takes his wife, Maria (Naomi Watts) and three kids, Lucas (Tom Holland)Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oakley Pendergast to Thailand on vacation.  No sooner do they get settled in their hotel, and start swimming in the pool, when a monster tsunami hits Thailand, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka, and devastates everything in its path.  The tsunami splits up Henry and the family, Lucas and Maria end up together.  Maria is gravely hurt, somehow they climb a tree with another young toddler in tow and wait an agonizingly long time for help to arrive.

Maria and Lucas are finally taken to a hospital, but Maria is too badly injured to be taken to surgery.  In the interim, Lucas takes down names of strangers who are missing family members, and even re-unites a man with his son.  One day, Lucas arrives where his mother was resting only to find his mother gone.  A friendly caretaker (Ploy Jindachote) helps Lucas find his mother but she is still too weak for surgery.  Can the doctors stabilize her enough to operate on her?  Where are Henry, Thomas and Simon?  Are their lives taken by the devastating tsunami?

I wanted to watch The Impossible because I wanted to remember what I felt like almost ten years ago when that tsunami devastated Indonesia, India, Thailand and Sri Lanka.  I was in shock that one natural disaster could take such a heavy toll.  This movie does an excellent job of physically recreating the damage done by the tsunami, and I give the filmmakers credit for tackling a story that’s extremely difficult to tell, but this is a movie with surprisingly many shortcomings.  It’s based on a true story, but the real family was Spanish, the movie family is British, so again, like The Butler, how many liberties did the writers take with the actual story?  I didn’t like the ethnocentric focus of this movie, if viewers knew nothing about the tsunami of 2004, they would think that all the victims were European, because Europeans are the only victims shown in this movie.  The reality is that hundreds of thousands of people died as a result of the 2004 tsunami, most of whom were Asian.  Other than the caretaker, and a nurse, none of the characters in the movie were Asian, that’s not right.  This is a movie that almost  demands a tragic ending, to reflect the tragic circumstances of the storm, I won’t tell you the ending, you have to watch it yourself to see if it’s fitting.  The writers even write in some product placement involving a can of Coke, hardly appropriate for a tragedy of this magnitude.

One big reason to watch this movie, despite whatever shortcomings the script may have, are the performances.  Naomi Watts has a physically grueling and emotionally taxing performance. She gives her all in this performance, there is nothing left behind, no physical or emotional pain unmined.  She is the soul of this movie.  Ewan McGregor gives a similarly strong and emotional performance.  He is such a versatile actor, and is so good in  so many different roles, Big Fish, Salmon Fishing in The Yemen, Attack of the Clones Revenge of the Sith, he brings an incredible vitality and humanity to all his roles.  The kids are all very good also, they are very mature at times, yet very vulnerable at others.

The story is long, but the pacing is good, so the movie doesn’t drag. The visuals speak for themselves.  The scenes of devastation speak in ways that words cannot express.  Those scenes by themselves make the movie worth watching.

The Impossible:  Great acting and incredible visuals make the impossible possible.

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