I had quite a few problems with this film. It isn't perfect. But here's what I know for sure: If you actually, genuinely dislike this film, the only logical explanation I can think of for this sad inference is that your heart is probably made of nothing. Not even stone, it should be made of nothing. Nada. Niente. Zilch.
The Impossible is not a disaster film starring John Cusack. It is based on a family's story of survival as they face the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami head-on. Vacationing in Thailand for Christmas, the Bennetts had no idea they are walking into one of the most tragic natural disasters ever recorded. The other cinematic representation of this I remember watching is Clint Eastwood's Hereafter (2010). While both are different films with different stories to tell, I must urge you to watch both. Not to compare them to one another, of course not.
Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor play the parents of three young boys. The performances by the actors are nothing short of astonishing. When I say this I don't just mean Watts and McGregor but also the three boys. Especially Tom Holland who plays the oldest son Lucas. The scene where he seeks out to help other victims is so true, so human. You could watch this film and lament the fragility of human life. You could also watch this film and celebrate courage and the beauty of human life. You could do both, if you like.
While I gush about this film, I must also address the problems I had with it. The cynic in you would be proud to know that quite a few things did make me cringe. The one that stood out were moments, which went for the obvious emotional manipulation. The hapless heart tugging goes into overdrive in one particular sequence of showing us the horrific events again at the end. Signaling a rebirth of sorts. I was with it, till the point horror film music chimes in. Yes, you would imagine triumph of the human spirit-y music to cue in but why in the world were we made to hear obnoxiously jarring horror film music? I ignored the use of this aural device when it was used once before but I couldn't ignore it when what I was seeing and hearing did not correspond at all.
One more fact that various critics have already pointed out that irks me is changing the ethnicity of the real-life Spanish family to a British one living in Japan. Why not make them Spanish? To get more eyeballs, sure. But imagine a story about 9/11 with a Spanish family stuck in the World Trade Center and a Thai film company decides to make them Thai tourists. Yes. That. But on the flipside, at least somebody is telling this story. There was indeed a white family in Thailand that survived and we are watching their story, we are watching a 'film' on their story. Not a documentary.
I don't wish to defile the film. I don't want to give the impression that I didn't like the film. Make no mistake, I did love it despite its foibles. Each film has its own world (true story or not) and I respect that. What I bring to it isn't the idea but what I take from it is. Let me tell you what I took from this film and I wanted to end my review with this (almost) spoiler. I knew the fate of this family beforehand and this scene still moved me, which is why I said 'almost'. If you don't want to read you further, you must stop and watch the film instead.
The scene that stirred me to my very marrow is the one where we see the reunion of the boys. I become moist-eyed as I write this. This is powerful filmmaking because it goes straight to your heart, there isn't much emotional manipulation required here by the filmmakers because it breaks your heart without trying.
(END OF SPOILERS)
Essentially, The Impossible is about a family. The bond they share and what they would do for each other. We forget to cherish our loved ones from time to time, almost to a degree where we think it's impossible to reach out to them and express. Caves of denial become the walls of habit. If we forget, there is always the cinematic tsunami that comes thrusting on to remind us.view less