Gratingly realistic: drama movie re-creates the Boxing Day tsunami

The Impossible

Released October 11, 2012. review written 2022.

One may not grasp the difficulties of the survivors of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, but The Impossible pulled off the impossible, by making one feel something of it. The power of re-creation enabled this and while not the same thing is still a way of conveying the magnitude of the disaster that the viewer is forever changed.

The Impossible begins by familiarising us with the lives of a young family heading for a hotel resort in Thailand. In the plane, Maria (Naomi Watts) is worried about turbulence because of her unfamiliarity with travel. She has been looking after her three children while husband Henry (Ewan McGregor) is the breadwinner, but things may change when they get back home. If they get back home, dare I say. The viewer may already be anticipating the event that shook the Indian Ocean on a certain Boxing Day. So, it comes as no surprise when disaster strikes. The tsunami and its aftermath are shatteringly real, and the recreation is staggering. It’s about as bad as a movie experience can get. The centrepiece of the story is the family’s anxiety as they get torn apart, but strength of family ties in a desperate and desolate situation helps them survive.

The Impossible makes us uncomfortable. We may squirm and hide, but we grin and bear it from the safety of our viewing couch. We see destruction, and muddy floods running through a once-inhabitable place that has now been reduced to debris. Hospitals are stretched. People are spewing and crying. There is blood and pain and marred bodies. Naomi Watts anguish is convincing, and certainly worthy of her Oscar nomination, while Ewan McGregor has emphatic moments that make us want to heal him. It’s like a horror show, but there are heroics despite the need for self-preservation.

It’s a hard film to recommend, but it’s amazing how the producers have reconstructed such a realistic disaster zone. The hotel resort is where I wouldn’t want to have been that Boxing Day, but The Impossible makes us more than appreciate what they went through and can forever etch it in the memory as well as making something, however impossible, life-affirming of it as well.

Contains offensive language and content that may disturb. Starring Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland. Director J.A. Bayona.

Reviewed by Peter Veugelaers.

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