The Impossible


The Impossible
Directed by J.A. Bayona
Summit Entertainment
Opens December 21

When the words "true story" appear twice in a film's opening disclaimer, it's a guarantee that what follows will include at least one questionable fiction. The Impossible is inspired by the Alvarez Belons, a Spanish family of five who survived the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that claimed almost 300,000 lives; in the film, the Iberian quintet has been remade into the more "relatable" British clan headed by Ewan McGregor (as businessman Henry) and Naomi Watts (as Maria, a physician who left her practice to be a full-time mom). Currently stationed in Japan, Henry, Maria, and their three boys, ranging in age from about five to 12, have arrived in Khao Lak, Thailand, for the Christmas holiday. The enormous waves that battered that country (and many others) on December 26 are staggeringly staged by director J.A. Bayona (2007's The Orphanage)—a feat of dubious distinction. (Does verisimilitude to actual disaster serve any purpose besides, as Susan Sontag wrote, allowing "one [to] participate in the fantasy of living through one's own death"?) Separated from Henry and the two younger children, Maria—trailing pools of blood from a muscle-deep gash as she deliriously trudges through brackish water—and the oldest son, Lucas (Tom Holland), eventually make it to a chaotic hospital. These horrors, and the absorbing performances of Watts and McGregor, will soon be undermined by a surfeit of sentiment. Melissa Anderson

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No doubt a moving testament to the human spirit, and I look forward to seeing the movie.  But it is more than a little creepy to once again have the local natives serve as a mere backdrop against which the elite project their suffering and redemption.  But what are 300,000 lives in the face of a white family brought together for an impossible happy ending? 


It is a true story the happy ending isn't impossible. Also of the thousands who died in Thailand half really were Western tourists. It's acceptable to tell this story I think because it's a tightly focused tail about a family but they witness the devestation and therefore we do too. We're not supposed to be rooting for them as though it's a sports film we're supposed to be experiencing it as their foreign eyes did. There are infinite ways stories which deal with this tragedy can be told and framed. This is just one of them. It's a shame that the resources of Hollywood or even this Spanish made production aren't also directed towards telling the story from a Thai or other point of view though.


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