Synopsis: 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.
Stars: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast
Director: J.A. Bayona
Running Length: 114 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (6/10)
Review: It took me a while, but about an hour into The Impossible I finally figured out what was bugging me so much about it. Going in I had read various critics call out the film for telling the story of an affluent white family that are impacted 2004 tsunami in Thailand that had a final death toll close to 300,000. Though the story is true, it is curious that the filmmakers focused on tourists staying at a deluxe coastal resort who seemingly only have to worry about if they will continue to live in Japan or go back to England after their Christmas holiday.
I was prepared to have that gnaw at me and it did…a bit. What frustrated me more than that was a conspicuous lack of any real minority presence that wasn’t reduced to a patronizing savior role introduced to help the in-need family be reunited and on the first plane back to Singapore. In truth, the film appears so white-washed, I would have thought it was a Nancy Meyers directed film. Seriously, go back and watch The Holiday, It’s Complicated, and Something’s Gotta Give and let me know if you see any minority character with a substantial speaking role.
These two drawbacks are unfortunate because The Impossible is not a bad film, per se. It’s well made, buoyed by a gripping pace and committed performances that aide in creating some respectable moments. Director Bayona was at the helm for the classy and creepy Spanish film The Orphanage and he brings the same emotional undercurrent to The Impossible. The Orphanage was billed as a horror thriller but what is really was was a suspense drama delivered with a firm grip. Bayona doesn’t let The Impossible get away from him either, skillfully navigating a Reader’s Digest Drama in Real Life situation to a moving tale of survival against the odds.
Watts and McGregor may not have enough screen time together to create the kind of chemistry that would have given their struggles a little extra oomph, but luckily they share the screen with some talented kids that go through the wringer with them. While Watts received an Oscar nomination for her work, it’s McGregor who should have received the praise. Watts is solid, no doubt, but she’s absent for long stretches of the film…so much so that I forgot about her storyline several times. Holland is their oldest boy and though the other two tots are uncommonly strong actors it’s Holland that steals the show out from under them all. Geraldine Chaplin also shows up for a brief but powerful cameo that showcases screenwriter Sergio G. Sanchez’s way with words.
I find it hard to outright recommend The Impossible based on some of the hang-ups I had with it outlined above. There are at least 300,000 ways the story could have been told and I’m sure sometime in the future maybe a film will be crafted that focuses on the people that called this place home and were left to pick up the pieces after the tsunami raged through. As for the family at the center of The Impossible…I wonder if they ever did decide on England or Japan.