The Impossible (Juan Antonio Bayona, 2012)

What's it about? Maria and Henry Bennett (Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor), along with their three young sons, arrive for their holiday in Thailand on Christmas Eve, 2004. But disaster strikes two days later when the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami strikes their resort and tears the family apart.

Is it any good? So, I've heard both sides of the argument about this. Is it a whitewashed tourist-centric version of a real-life tragedy? Or is it an honest, family-centric version of a real-life miracle? Well, maybe it's because I'm a miraculous and honest family man, but I came down on the side of the latter. It has a few hokey moments, sure, but this is an authentically staged and engaging disaster movie. The recreation of the tsunami itself is brilliantly realized, heart-in-mouth stuff. If, like me, you had thought perhaps you could have outran the wave if you had been there, this will set you straight. The aftermath is no less grueling to watch - Naomi Watts injuries are likely to cause a little wincing - as the family members search for each other in the devastated area, again superbly believable in its chaotic details. The emotional engagement is heightened with really good performances, particularly from Tom Holland as the eldest son, whilst McGregor has an outstanding breakdown scene which is heart-rending to watch. It could perhaps have done a better job of showing the wider impact of the disaster on the region and skates close to being manipulative at times, but.......YES! OKAY! FINE! I got a little teary, alright? Is that what you wanted to hear? Huh!? ARE YOU HAPPY NOW? Must have been the wine. 

I don't trust you. What do others think? This caused a lot of fuss about the ethical and moral responsibility of making such a film. In the blue corner, the film's detractors weighed in with the argument that the film had focused on a privileged white family of five, whilst marginalizing the hundreds of thousands of Asian people who died and the millions more displaced by the tragedy. Fueling this 'whitewash' argument was the fact that this is the story of a Spanish family, the Belóns, yet the family in the film has been transformed into English. Despite claims to the contrary from the studio, it would seem fairly likely that the changes were made to appeal more to Western audiences, thereby boosting the box-office potential. Studios interested in making money - who'd have thunk it? In the opposite corner, however, the argument was made that this was simply a story of one family's experience of the disaster, not intended to be representative and not intended to play down the scale of the disaster. That said, the emotions on display do speak of a universal theme of love and family, and a celebration of the human spirit, so that justified making the film. You can read more on the argument here.

What does the Fonz think? A wave of emotion to compensate for the whitewashing.

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