The Impossible (Lo imposible) : A family of English tourists are on vacation in Thailand when the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami hits. The struggle to survive and find each other in the aftermath of the disaster.
An alternative to the blockbuster; I have never been a fan of blockbusters. Big summer popcorn movies aren’t for me, but The Impossible displays a number of traits commonly found in blockbusters, and does them in a way that subverts many of the negatives attached to the spectacle. The special effects are genuinely incredible and endlessly impressive from a technical perspective. The same goes for the makeup and the disaster set pieces. The spectacle in The Impossible is top notch, and thankfully the characters, story and general craft in between are also handled exceedingly well. I am a big lover of the post-apocalypse, it’s perhaps my favorite alternative setting. The Impossible, while not being an apocalyptic story, ticked some of those boxes for me. The images of destruction and chaos are incredible.
The child acting could be better, But it is far from bad. The young actors do a good job, but it could be pushed further into greatness given the subject matter and emotional heft that is being dealt with. Part of this is due to the script which has some weak dialogue. The script choice that impressed me greatly was the decision to avoid following multiple narrative threads when the family gets separated. I am sure the temptation to cut back and forth between the family members as they struggle to survive was there, but instead, the film only follows one point of view for a long time, leaving you in wonder and worry as to what happened and what is happening with the other members of the family.
McGregor and Watts are fantastic; Both Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts give excellent performances. Ewan McGregor is given one scene, in particular, to really shine involving a cellphone call. Their characters are given just the right amount of character development before the tsunami strikes. With a movie about a disaster where almost the entire audience is going into it with the knowledge that there will be a tsunami that drives the majority of the plot, it is rather impressive that the moment the tsunami strikes is still surprising.
A problem more common than it should be; A common pitfall to films of this nature where something is happening in a foreign language is to cast an English speaking lead or leads. The Impossible is far from the only film to do this. The problem stems from the belief that audiences won’t be able to relate to characters who aren’t the same race or don’t speak the same language as them. Playing to the target audience is one thing, but devaluing the life of another culture is another thing entirely. Fortunately, The Impossible isn’t one of the films to do this in an insensitive way as I had feared it might have been going into it. The fact that the family is on vacation and the language barrier between them and many of the people they meet are important to the story. The film follows the true story of a real family who went through this very same situation. The family was changed to English from their real life Spanish, and the real family was on set for much of the filming, keeping things as authentic as possible. For the most part, this pitfall is carefully navigated.