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The Impossible

“The Impossible” begins the way you would expect it to begin: establishing the characters, showing how they settle in their nice posh Kao Lak resort, showing that not all is well within that family, that especially the older son seems to have an issue with his relationship to his mother, he shows an odd reaction to seeing her undress. At that point, I was a bit worried that the film would play too nicely along the lines of traditional disaster movies, with each of the characters having been allocated their part early on.

When the tsunami hits the Thai coast, this changes. While the plot still is one of family lost, family found, I liked for instance the fact that this is not done through parallel narration, but we stay with the Naomi Watts character, being as ignorant as she and her son is about the whereabouts of her husband and the other kids. Needless to say, the fate they meet, the tsunami and its aftermath, are horrific. How they have been put on screen is utterly impressive, showing the brute force of the water, how it can hurt and kill in an instant, turn from beautiful friend at the beach into merciless killer. That interpretation is nonsense, actually, maybe the most impressive bit is to be reminded of how indifferent and unemotional nature is. Sometimes you are in the way, so you get killed. Or your leg ripped open. It is comforting in a certain twisted way that all riches and achievements cannot protect you from nature passing through your garden. The film shows this with its non-dramatized depiction of people getting washed away, now they stand, then they are gone, and by a stunning underwater scene showing the forces at work.

The family members (and everybody else) work their way through the chaos, they receive help and give if they can, after a period of post-apocalyptic aimless wandering they try to reestablish some form of organization to get them out of the chaos zone. The film is struggling a bit with audience expectation at this point, I think: If you do not know the “true story” behind it, you will soon develop a certain expectation of what this will lead to, how the paths will probably converge. The “true story” aspect (as so often) is actually a bit in the way here, forcing choices that a more independent author may have avoided, especially towards the very end of the film.

But still: through competent acting by Ewan McGregor (surprise to me, actually… when have I last seen him acting at all?) and Naomi Watts, with good support from the child actors, this makes for a good drama that is unlikely to leave anybody untouched.

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