The Impossible: Appropriate or Simply Too Real?

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Based on a true story, this is an account of a family caught, with tens of thousands of strangers, in the mayhem of one of the worst natural catastrophes of our time.
Photo Credit: Summit Entertainment
September 20th, 2012

The Impossible: Appropriate or Simply Too Real?

-- Disaster movies are all too common in Hollywood, depicting everything from alien invasions to volcanic eruptions on a global scale. While films such as "The Day After Tomorrow" tell fictitious tales of widespread disaster, there seems to be a niche of films about recent real-life catastrophic events that are left on a slippery slope of being too real to handle. Although the movie business seems to avoid this gray area quite frequently, "The Impossible" tackles this roadblock by bravely telling the true story of a family during the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami of 2004.

Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, "The Impossible" focuses on a family vacationing along the picturesque coast of Thailand. All is well for the young family, led by a couple escaping the stresses of life and relaxing with their small children. Laughs and smiles are plentiful, as they are on most vacations. As the group happily enjoys a dip in the pool, the mood suddenly changes as birds stop chirping and all falls quiet. The camera shifts to the sudden darkening toward the beach as an impenetrable wall of water begins to ferociously swallow the shore. Panic ensues, with frenzied people trying desperately to escape the rushing waves.

The formerly luxurious resort is transformed instantly as dark, murky water pours in with countless splintered debris swirling about. In the ongoing chaos, viewers are swept off their feet and into the frantic fight for survival the family endures as they are separated from one another.

Henry, played by Ewan McGregor, awakes stranded with two of his children, battered and bloodied by the violence of the flood waters. His broken body and spirit are not enough to hold him back as he begins the exhaustive search for his wife and other son. Naomi Watts plays Maria, the nurturing mother who does her best to comfort her son Lucas while still battling her own fears about being separated from her husband and other young children. Despite her fears, Maria also presses on to find her lost husband and children.

Other than focusing on the family, the film also shows the widespread devastation of the area. Locals are depicted in the background in shoddy makeshift hospitals, and wandering survivors are plentiful in the backdrop. Debris is scattered about, with turmoil painted on the face of all involved.

From the frantic seconds of the first wave to the ghastly aftermath, "The Impossible" covers all aspects of what the family suffered through on the journey to reunite. Viewers are thrust into a world of pain, sorrow, terror, and confusion, similar to what the family faced. The film is certainly raw with emotion and utter devastation, leaving many to wonder if it is appropriate to be released so soon and so realistically after the tragic events that ended the lives of more than 200,000 people.

While this red flag seems to be something to consider, it's important to remember that it's never easy to see the ugly things in life depicted on the big screen, no matter how big or small the tragedy. What's important is that "The Impossible" allows viewers to put themselves in the place of those affected by the horrific events. The film serves as a window for those ignorant of the situation to learn more and understand the true catastrophic nature of the disaster. Viewing the pain and loss that people endured will open the eyes of audiences and leave viewers with a heartfelt reminder of what the region experienced in the seconds of the initial wave, as well as the aftermath.

The film also offers a touching insight into the importance of family and family unity. Regardless of their own issues, both parents cared for their young ones and fought to find their loved ones. The love and bond of the family is evident, providing a soft backdrop for viewers to land on to escape the turmoil of the events. The film shows just how far and hard love can drive a person.

While "The Impossible" is definitely a heart-wrenching film that may be difficult to watch for some, it's an inspiring tale of what truly happened to one family. The film is not overly fluffed by Hollywood to be a romantic tale. It is, however, gritty, raw, and harsh, depicting the horrors of what thousands suffered. This truth and honesty make "The Impossible" a gem among dramas, paving the way for more films of its kind.