The Impossible (2012)
Starring Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor
Boxing Day, 2004. A massive tsunami swept through South Asia, leaving devastation in its path It’s one of those big events. The kind that you remember exactly where you were when it happened. For me, I was sitting in my cousin’s living room. We sat and watched the news in silence as the chaos unfolded. Hundreds of thousands dead. Even more injured and left homeless. To say it was a traumatic event for many is an understatement.
There are many stories that can be told from the Boxing Day Tsunami. The Impossible is the true story of separation and reunion of the Alvarez family, caught unawares by the tsunami as they holiday at their Thai resort. The story of this family is an emotional roller coaster. If you’re after that kind of movie, there’s a lot to like in The Impossible. However, just below the surface, there is something troubling going on. Something that is unintentional by the film makers but says something quite troubling about us as a movie going public.
For me, the best part of the movie was the tsunami hitting. When the water hits, you can’t help but be in awe at its power. I used to wonder why people didn’t just run away. When the wave begins roaring through the resort in The Impossible, you begin to understand how powerful this event was. How helpless the people were in its wake. And as Naomi Watts struggles to keep her head above water, as she tries to stay near her son, you can empathise with her. I could feel her terror. The initial disaster is a great piece of cinema.
The rest of the movie will be a mixed bag for most. For me, I found some scenes stretched out too long and the use of the soundtrack overly manipulative. These might not be issues for you. But despite this, I did find the movie genuinely emotional. I wanted the family to be reunited. I just wish it was edited differently.
The big problem for me however, was a subtle hint of racism that permeated every inch of this film. It begins with the casting. The family at the heart of this story are Spanish. Yet for the movie they are whitewashed, replaced by two white people who now come from England. You could be forgiven for thinking that the Thai people were not adversely affected by the tsunami, as the only people injured in the disaster, the only ones who are suffering, are privileged white people. The Thai are just there to silently help the white people and patch them back up. Why is this the story being told? It’s because if you made the movie about a Thai family’s story of survival, it would be a box office disaster. It seems we’re only sympathetic when people have white skin. And that’s a sad comment on our society.
The Boxing Day Tsunami was a great disaster. Many were left struggling to understand how it could happen. If God existed, how could he allow this to occur? The answer isn’t easy. We don’t like to think of how sin has got a stranglehold on this world. But it has. It is a real and powerful presence in this world. We have disasters because of sin. Sin has infected this world, it’s no longer the good creation that God made. Just like we are waiting for Jesus to deal with sin once and for all, so is creation. “And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment-to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” (Eph 1:9-10) We don’t know when that day is, but when it does arrive, events like tsunamis will be a thing of the past.
The Impossible is a good movie – in parts. There are some scenes I’d watch again. But I’d fast forward through most of it. If you like having your heart strings tugged, The Impossible could be your kind of movie. If you do see the movie, take the time to think of the people of Thailand who felt the full pain and suffering of this event. Because The Impossible isn’t going to do it for you.