Disaster on a Human Scale
Maria (Naomi Watts) and Henry (Ewan McGregor), along with their three kids arrive in Thailand, from Japan to spend Christmas and discover they have been upgraded to a villa closer to the beach. They are not alone as many have flown in to the picturesque area to spend Christmas with their loved ones in the sun by the sea. But this perfect paradise is rocked when shortly after a roaring sound engulfs the area a tsunami hits leading to mass devastation. It also leads to the family being separated as Maria and her eldest son get bruised and battered as they are swept one way whilst Henry and the youngest children are taken off in another direction all having to battle to survive and try and find each other.
I have always felt dramatizing a real disaster which is fresh in people's minds is a bit of a risk, in fact some which I have watched end up being distasteful as they seem to capitalize more on the freshness of the devastation rather than telling a worthy story. And in truth whilst 8 years had passed since the devastation tsunami of 2004 whilst "The Impossible" is also based on a true story I still found something a little bit wrong about making a movie of one families survival when so many other people lost their families.
Having said that it is impossible not to say that "The Impossible" is a very well made movie with the big disaster movie special effects which grab your attention. Watching the wave of water demolishing its way through the area, indiscriminately wiping out whatever and whoever is in its way is both impressive and horrifying. Then after this the scenes of devastation of a community wiped out, the destroyed buildings and landmarks caked in mud to make them unrecognizable has just as high an impact.
But "The Impossible" is not just a movie which wants to impress visually but this is about people in the devastation and human nature. So whilst we get impact scenes such as locals removing dead bodies on a back of a truck we also get scenes such as Maria who on one hand feels helpless to help but at the same time feels she is must help despite being in a bad way. We also see how in the midst of this devastation the locals helped Maria and her eldest son. We also see how even in disaster and the loss of dignity respect is maintained when young Lucas turns away because his mum's vest has ripped, exposing her. I could go on because the writing is first rate to capture so much real drama such as Maria telling her son that as long as her leg doesn't turn black she is okay leading to a horrified look on his face.
Now I say the writing is first rate but that is a lie as the writing before the disaster strikes is less than great with an off putting forced nature about it. The delivery is also forced with Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor failing to convince as a married couple although they do spend the majority of the movie apart which for the sake of the movie is a good thing. It is not just Watts and McGregor whose acting is forced and at times young Tom Holland suffers from not coming across naturally, sounding far too polite in the midst of all this destruction.
What this all boils down to is that there are aspects of "The Impossible" which really don't work for me. But the amount of detail and human emotion which is in the writing as well as the impressive visual aspects still makes it a captivating movie.