Stories recanting catastrophic events have been part of humanity since before the written record was feasible. Every culture throughout the ages has tales of earth shattering calamity but in more recent time these stories have become the foundation of a specific type of movie commonly referred to as the disaster flick. The arguably best known filmmaker of this genre, Irwin Allen, preferred to give them different nomenclature, a survivor film. His point of view, valid if for no other reason than his undisputed expertise in the format, is the disaster occupies a relatively brief portion of a typically long movie. What matters most is the stories of those that discovered previously untapped reserves of intestinal fortitude to overcome unimaginable odd to walk free of the disaster. This infuses the film with an uplifting quality, a reaffirmation on the undefeatable spirit of man; the best of what is mankind. As wonderful as that might be the fact remains this is still a work of fiction. When those same attributes are demonstrated in true events the results can be unimaginably inspiring. An excellent example can be found in an English language film by Spanish filmmaker Juan Antonio Bayona and written by Sergio G. Sánchez. It covers an amazing first person of a woman and her family as they survive one of the most deadly and powerful manifestations of nature, the tsunami, specifically the one that devastated the coastlines of the Pacific Rim during the 2004 killer wave.
The events depicted in the movie are based on the lives of Maria Benne (Naomi Watts) and British physician and her Scottish husband, Henry (Ewan McGregor). They are on Christmas holiday in Khao Lak, Thailand, accompanied by their three sons, Lucas (Tom Holland), Tomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast). Their vacation was idyllic in that seaside resort affording the family the opportunity to relax in the sun and water. One day appeared to like any other until a mountain of water many stories high rumble towards the resort. The sound was terrible, felt in the ground like a freight train drawing closer. By the time the people could see the wave over the tree tops it was already too late to seek shelter. The torrent of water, brown with the earth swept up and containing shrapnel created from objects crushed by the tsunami. Maria and Lucas are caught up in the flood, dragged rapidly from the others. They are tossed about helplessly clutching to whatever they can for a meager grasp at something to slow their floundering. Maria through sheer determination dredged up from maternal instincts manages to catch up with the older of her two boys and the two survive the initial onslaught of water. Soon they uncover a child, Daniel (Johan Sundberg) among the debris. Pulling him out they make their way until they encounter a small group of survivors. The wreckage is horrible; cars floating like leaves in a stream, bodies and destruction extending as far as you can see.
The group are found by some relief workers and taken to a hospital hastily converted into a trauma center. An overwhelm staff do their best at the arduous task of triage helping whomever they can. Maria has a serious wound to her leg that she bound the best she could under the circumstances by at the hospital she was forced to suppress her urge to help as a doctor and consign herself to the role of patient. She is rushed into surgery as. She is misplaced in the confusion and inadvertently listed as dead. Lucas wanders around the ward recording names in an attempt to reconnect families. Maria also sustained an injury to her chest that requires immediate intervention. While this is occurring the scene shifts to Henry, Tomas and Simon. They survived just barely with Henry sustaining injuries but ambulatory, the father entrust his sons to a group taking a vehicle to higher ground while he searches for Maria and Lucas. On the way he encounters Karl (Sönke Möhring), a German tourist searching for his family. In typical disaster movie fashion the separated halves of the family struggle to stay alive driven by the all-consuming need to be reunited no matter what obstacle they might face.
No matter how predisposed you are to make the natural comparison to fictionalized movies the underlying fact remains this was based on actual events with real people. I’m reasonably certain that some dramatic license was taken, embellishments applied for the sake of presenting the story in a coherent film, the story was taken from the writings of María Belón, the real life inspiration for Maria Bennet. In something like this there is little need to add drama, suspense or dangerous situations. A magnitude 9.2 undersea earthquake in the Indian Ocean resulted in one of the most significant tsunami in recorded history. Nature unleashed a deadly potential in a fashion more intense than anything contrived by a special effects company. For weeks the news media was taken over by the stories of the devastation and the heroic actions like those of Maria and Henry.
Ms Watts received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. I have been a =n ardent fan of her incredible talent for many years even impressed with her nascent performance in ‘Tank Girl’. Since then Watts has matured into one of the most phenomenal actresses of her generation and this film is a perfect showcase for this matured, refined ability. McGregor is one of the most versatile actors on the scene today. From light comedy to science fiction he consistently exhibits a depth and emotion ability that is astonishing. This film places these talented professionals with circumstances that destroyed the lives of millions and exhibited the boundless heights the human spirit achieves. ‘The Impossible’ is a movie that is undeniable entertaining but more importantly it reinforces everything that is noble within our spirit. Some much is made public about the evil that resides within the dark recesses of our kind but a story like this makes you proud to be a human being. Watch it with the entire family; enjoy and find yourself uplifted.