RAMA is back with another review.
The criticism around this movie is targeted on the fact that it’s about a tourist family, rich folks having vacation and their vacation suddenly goes awry and people think THE IMPOSSIBLE doesn't do enough to emphasize that the locals who serve these tourists were devastated by the natural tragedy too. I think it’s an unfair criticism and I’ll explain why..
Based on the true story of one family’s survival of the 2004 tsunami, THE IMPOSSIBLE stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor and is directed by J.A. Bayona (THE ORPHANAGE). Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their three sons begin their winter vacation in Thailand, looking forward to a few days in tropical paradise. But on the morning of December 26th, as the family relaxes around the pool after their Christmas festivities the night before, a terrifying roar rises up from the center of the earth. As Maria freezes in fear, a huge wall of black water races across the hotel grounds toward her.
The reason that it is not fair to judge the movie that way is because there are different ways, different perspective of approaching this and this happens to tell it in a tourist family point of view, and that specific area in Thailand happens to be a tourist site and a resort. And the fact that not just the events were true, the family is also based on a real family, what they went through actually happened, all that adds to the realism that this film has done marvelously.
The tsunami scenes look ten times more realistic and more affecting than the CG tsunami in Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter. I’m glad the producer and director Juan Antonio Bayona went with designing a huge water tank and putting their actors to the test, and because of that, the actors’ performances also come off more genuine.
You can’t help but applaud the special effects and practical effects team that went above and beyond to recreate a grueling environment, throwing debris all over the place, the whole thing looks like it could’ve been filmed the day after the actual Tsunami occurred in Dec. 2004, it was that convincing. As far as the locals go, the script doesn’t forget about them, it doesn’t neglect them or turn them into some kind of second class element, the Thai people in this film are portrayed as heroes, saviors, they put themselves out on the line to rescue everyone, if any, this film actually gives great reputation to an already friendly nation.
Other films would probably choose to shoot the production in different locations like Hawaii as a stand in for Thailand but that’s not the case with THE IMPOSSIBLE, they wanted the actual ground zero to be just as much part of the film, I’m sure most of the Thai people featured in the film were live witnesses when the tragedy happened back in 2004 and they have strong connection. There’s not much dialogue in this film and things get quite brutal and graphic. Screenwriter Sergio Sanchez once told me that the description was actually more brutal on the pages than the final print on the screen, but it’s necessary that the film doesn’t shy away from the devastation.
Perhaps that’s my only reservation, that at times I wonder if the film is just trying to see how much more brutal it can get or how much it can push or show, which leads me to also wonder if the award buzz around Naomi Watts’ is well-deserved or perhaps those praises should be directed more towards the makeup folks who did a grand job of making her look battered, bloodied, and bruised.
Having said that, I do commend Watts for carrying the film, for enduring such physically demanding work and that should definitely count for something. She’s always been an actress who’s good at or is not afraid of tackling emotionally heavy, dark roles and you can see as Maria, Watts faces this head on. I think Tom Holland and Ewan McGregor deserve just as much credit because their roles just show the true colors of their abilities as actors.
I think THE IMPOSSIBLE could work better without some of its moments that are there obviously designed solely to make you cry, and it could work better if there’s more solid dialogue perhaps in the interactions between Holland and the people that he helps in the hospital. But THE IMPOSSIBLE has done the true story and the true tragic event justice, that is until the next Tsunami drama from a different point of view comes along.
GRADE: 4 out of 5
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