In 2004 East Asia experienced one of the biggest natural disasters recorded in recent history in the form of a tsunami on December 26th. This film is the story of the Bennett family who were on vacation in Thailand for Christmas in 2004 when the incident occurred.
When the tsunami hits we follow Lucas (Tom Holland) and Maria (Naomi Watts) not knowing if the rest of their family has survived. With a small amount of character being injected into this movie as we try to follow them in the apocalypse that’s been levelled on their lives at this point in time the film eventually reveals (after we’ve spent more than half of the movie with Lucas and Maria) that Henry (Ewan McGregor), Simon (Oaklee Pendergast) and Thomas (Samuel Joslin) are also surviving and keeping safe in the ruined hotel along with a lot of other surviving tourists. In Maria and Lucas’ side of the struggle we’re given almost what would serve as a full film for this kind of a story, however we’re forced to revisit the entire arc again in order to tell the viewpoint of Henry post tsunami which makes the film not only feel much longer than it really is but also make it more of a chore than anything else. The film could’ve edited together these two stories in such a way that they would flow cohesively, especially since both Henry and Maria both follow the same emotional journey — even if they’re not walking in the same direction after the water subsides.
The Impossible is a film which resides heavily in the camp of dictating emotions to the audience for reciprocation. One (of many) example of this happening is in a scene wherein Henry, on his journey, encounters Karl (Sönke Möhring) — another tourist, who’s searching for his wife/girlfriend (I honestly can’t remember) — as he’s taken to a bus station one night when he’s found injured while searching for his family. In this moment we’re given a scene of Henry finally being able to contact his family back in England to let them know what’s happened to him and his family and Henry does the sensible thing, he keeps his moment short to be considerate to the situation and respectful of the people’s generosity to him, but at the same time he becomes enthralled in emotions and ends the call on a note that you know the people on the other end would be left in a state. This is where we have the queue of Fernando Velázquez to remind us that it’s time to cry and it does nothing but hurt the scene that’s already working on it’s own.
While the aforementioned scene doesn’t truly ruin believability for the audience since what’s happening makes sense and we understand the situation so we’re with our protagonist ready to cry with him as he hangs up the phone for the first time. The problem with it is that thanks to the ham fisted delivery of the scene (including use of score) it breaks the illusion for the audience all in one fell swoop. Especially as the film continues (and has been going on for the last hour) in the same vain in every emotional moment whether we’re with the characters or not the score is always there as a constant reminder to cry… but we don’t.
This film is told from the perspective of this family and how they perceived the event. However, it ends up being wasteful as when they’re forced to step outside of the region of just tourist areas they never seem to come in contact with an affected individual who happens to be native. It’s easy to look at the surface of this film and feel nothing but disgust as the film ignores an entire nation’s tragedy in this incident and merely focus on this one family, and the other tourists that happened to be affected around the family.
Even if you’re able to look past the focus of the story ignoring the rest of the world, you are still forced to look at how Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage) forcefully manipulates the audience with music in almost every climactic moment to announce to the audience, “this is where you should be crying,” which only proves the weakness of the film’s emotional core entirely.