Monday, 14 January 2013

The Impossible

I haven’t seen a disaster flick in quite some time. It’s not a genre that gets much respect and I would say rightfully so. The Impossible is a disaster flick based on the true story of a family of five who were vacationing on the coast of Thailand when the big tsunami hit in late 2004. To use such an horrific natural disaster as the basis for a ‘disaster flick’ is an incredibly risky undertaking, especially if you throw in a few cliches. 

In fact, given what I said about the genre, only an exceptionally skilled director and writer could make a good film out of this, let alone a great one. But Spanish director J.A. Bayona and writer Sergio G. Sanchez are more than up to the task (with the help of Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor as the parents of the family). Watts and McGregor are terrific, but it’s the screenplay by Sergio G. Sanchez which makes The Impossible special, because the film is perfectly crafted and the story expertly told.

Although The Impossible focuses on the ordeal of one family, it manages (by telling its story so well) to encompass the grief of all the families who suffered on that horrific day. By doing this, it nullifies, for me, the most common criticism of the film, namely that it somehow trivializes the disaster. And while highlighting the tourist casualties might ignore the anguish and long-term hardship of the local Thai population, the film does let us see the way the Thai people stepped in to help all those in need. 

As for the cliches and the sentiment, I think Sanchez and Bayona were remarkably restrained and that what comes across is not what some critics call conventional melodrama but profound moments of honest humanity which reveal the courage and kindness of all involved. 

I had already put together a list of my top ten films of 2012 and was not looking for last-minute entries, but The Impossible may well be one. Another very solid ***+ effort. My mug is up. 

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