The Impossible-Impossibly True

WATCH // MOVIE

The Impossible

Juan Antonio Bayona

2012

Based on the true story of a Spanish family during the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, The Impossible hits deeply and profoundly long after watching it. Re-opening the tsunami dialogue for both victims and viewers, director Juan Antonio Bayona has skilfully captured the torrent of emotions and events of the tsunami and the aftermath, but he fell a little short near the finale.

Unlike most of its peers in the disaster movie category, The Impossible tries not to be an overdone Hollywood blockbuster that glamorises and romanticises natural disasters. Bayona goes for an unorthodox approach of splitting the narrative in half. It focuses purely on the perspective of one family caught in the middle, like so many hundreds of thousands were. As most of the audience are aware of what happened, the film doesn’t try to go for shock value; but somehow we’re still on our toes waiting for the expected.

Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts played Henry and Maria Bennet, who have hard to come by, authentic onscreen chemistry as the loving parents to three boys. Both moderately veteran actors are in their element; the film works with a very small cast. McGregor plays a grief stricken yet determined husband and father. Watts undeniably deserves her Oscar nomination, with flinchingly painful scenes of a mother who protects her child but also does what is right under extenuating circumstances.

The two younger sons are played wonderfully by mostly unknown child actors (Samuel Joslin and Oaklee Pendergast), but the highlight of the film is Tom Holland who plays the oldest, Lucas. A typical moody teenager at the beginning, he blossoms into the strength of the film. Holland is no doubt the star: he captures the determination and generosity of a boy caught in the frightening whirlwind of the aftermath. He and Watts shared a rare mother-and-son chemistry that is depicted through their desperate struggle to stay together in the churning water. This would largely be due to the fact that Holland and Watts spent five weeks in a huge water tank filming the scenes in Spain.

For the most part, The Impossible stays away from the clichéd overly scripted movie scenes that we have come to expect from a generic blockbuster. But unfortunately the last quarter of the film falls victim to a few of these scenes, which are slightly disappointing. It certainly detracts from the artful nuances of the film; the climax is far too coincidental and a clichéd dream sequence is slipped in without aplomb. The sound effects and score are both strengths and weaknesses. The sound effects have a clarity and accuracy that made your ears pop. The sounds of a tsunami approaching are terrifying, even whilst safely sitting in a seat in the cinema. However, the score was a mish-mash of climactic sweeping strings and inappropriate Psycho-like screeching.

Although fragile, the genuine strength behind the film is that of the human spirit. Through intimate little scenes, we saw the community that arose from the aftermath of the tsunami. Through grief and hardship both the tourists and the residents of Thailand will forever be intermingled. The grittiness of Thailand’s hospitals and facilities are contrasted with the humble altruistic assistance by the Thai people who have lost everything but still help the Western tourists. We rarely see the true devastation of the Thai people.

Although some of the sequences were deterring, The Impossible is a rare gem in its genre. Not only has it depicted a traumatising modern event, the accuracy of the story hits home for all. Bayona actualises the credibility on our screens with clever use of real water scenes and a highly distinct and deeply effecting sound effects track. Watts, McGregor and Holland bring it to life, not as narrative of another natural disaster but of the strength of the human spirit against all odds.

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