Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Impossible (2012) - FilmReview

Article author: Alwyn Ash

When a family is torn apart, courage must take over...

I don't often allow myself to watch highly emotionally-charged true-life movies, simply because I find such a thing impossible, being a very sensitive and emotional person myself. And so opening up to these kind of experiences is both physically and, yes, emotionally tiring. However, when I heard of The Impossible - and knowing that the feature starred Naomi Watts - I just had to see what the fuss was all about. I certainly had no idea that the film focused on the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami until I read the synopsis. What I discovered was a powerful and captivating tale chronicling disaster, bravery and humanity at its finest.

Based on Spanish physician María Belón and her family's experiences during and following the tragic events, Watts is cast as "English" physician Maria Bennet (temporary retired from practice), who travels with her husband Henry (Ewan McGregor) and three children Lucas (Tom Holland), Tomas (Samuel Joslin), and Simon (Oakley Pendergrast) to Khao Lak, Thailand, for the Christmas holidays. The fun isn't to last long. This beautiful paradise becomes the scene of mayhem when a flood hits, indiscriminately taking lives and destroying homes. The horrifying event is well realised, with effects that easily call up memories of those news broadcasts we had watched with deep sympathy and sadness for both the Indian Ocean and similar tsunami victims. Not one scene is taken for granted, or wasted.

In the wake of this mass destruction, the film focuses on both Maria and her eldest son Lucas, who are both swept away by the flood but manage to find one another; the former severely injured. It has to be said that both actors do a wonderful job, and it is easy to feel for them - separated from Henry and the other two children, whose fate remains a mystery at this time, mother and son at least have each other. In a lovely scene, they are soon joined by a toddler named Daniel, who is found alone and in wreckage.

There had been criticism regarding the movie's "whitewashing", casting "white" actors to make ethnic characters "more appealing to the white", with the main issue being that a white Western family gets caught up in a tsunami instead of a true reflection of the Spanish family whose experiences this feature is based on. I disagree, however. There is no sign that Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona or writer Sergio G. Sánchez are purposefully engaging in such an act - the casting of Watts and McGregor is a wise one as they are clearly capable of delivering a performance that is needed for such demanding roles (how would Penélope Cruz have fared as María Belón, I wonder?). Even the young cast is exceptional, not once failing to embrace the script with true purpose. "Lo Imposible" is a Spanish production and, thankfully, overall response for the film has been positive.

The Impossible solidly hammers home the true nature of such a disaster, using authentic locations and focusing solely on the Human need for hope, bravery and compassion. Though their homes and lives have been wrecked, the Thai people work tirelessly in a bid to help tsunami victims (both local and tourists). They are the true heroes in this magnificent true-life tale that shines throughout...

Even when it is revealed that Maria, Lucas and Henry have survived the initial flood, it is clear that Maria isn't out of the woods yet - her injuries are extensive and surgery is required. Henry, too, is in search of his family, not knowing whether they are alive or dead. And there is plenty to admire about this movie, especially when Lucas leaves his mother's bedside to help others in the hospital, even reuniting a father and son in one touching scene. In another, Henry encounters a group of people - one of them, a German man named Karl Schweber (Sönke Möhring) permits the Scottish husband to use his cellphone, which leads to a rather emotional call home.

Whatever your own thoughts on the "whitewash", there is no denying that this feature is a total assault on the senses, an honest account of tragedy, loss and survival regardless of race, a heartbreaking walk through events when a tsunami injects terror into a delicate community. This is indeed one movie with fine performances from all involved, and a respectful account of the horrific tsunami that occurred on Sunday 26th December 2004, killing over 230,000 people. It is a firm reminder that we are fragile in nature, and that nothing is ever certain.