By Paula Damon
I usually don’t see movies until well after they are released, which explains why I just recently watched “The Impossible” (2012) DVD. Even so, here’s my take on what is considered one of the best movies that year.
If you haven’t seen the PG-13 rated film, brace yourself for a shockingly true story that packs enough horror and inspiration to last a lifetime.
In 2004 while on a tropical island vacation in Thailand, the impossible literally happens in the lives of physician María Belón Alvárez, her husband, Enrique (Henry) and their sons Lucas, Simón and Tomás Belón.
It all begins or should I say “ends” when an Indian Ocean tsunami, triggered by an earthquake, floods Khao Lak, obliterating everything in its path.
Offering skillful and gripping performances by the film’s stars Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin and Oakley Pendergrast, the “The Impossible” retells an unthinkable story of one family’s plight to reunite under the most dire and desperate life and death circumstances.
Watts alone sturdily anchors the story with an unbeatable portrayal of Dr. Belón Alvárez, capturing the ebb and flow of vulnerability and courage throughout her ordeal.
With breathtaking cinematography by Óscar Faura, brilliant directing by Juan Antonio Bayona and top-notch writing by Sergio G. Sánchez, the simple yet powerful plot is bound to leave viewers with a serious case of tsunami-phobia.
On Dec. 26, without a moment’s notice, a massive wall of ocean current rages miles inland, swallowing whole the resort where the family of five was staying. The water’s force sweeps all of them away in different directions, and instantly their tropical island bliss becomes a bloody battleground between nature and humankind.
There is a 10-minute scene that feels endless, when the tsunami destroys everything in its path, taking hostages, including Maria who is carried along and intermittently submerged in the raging current for what seems like miles on end. Viewers can’t help but be caught up in the chaos and confusion of the family’s powerfully desperate fight for their lives.
After what may seem like an eternity, a real life miracle occurs. María and her son Lucas – both bruised, battered and bloodied, somehow manage to find each other. They crawl and claw their way through mounds of debris and death, looking for help.
Eventually, a local search party finds the mother and son and transports them to a nearby makeshift hospital, where she awaits lifesaving surgery.
Elsewhere, her husband and two other sons also have miraculously survived the epic flood together. And finally, through a series of harrowing searches in shelters and Red Cross clinics, the family is reunited.
Days later, after María has a second surgery, the family boards an ambulance plane to Singapore, where she undergoes further treatment.
This film moves even the toughest among us to the edge of our seats, where we remain planted for nearly three hours of a true hell on earth, and that’s putting it lightly.
An extraordinary piece, “The Impossible” not surprisingly chalked up a bevy of outstanding reviews in praise of the directing, acting, cinematography, writing and editing. Watts alone was nominated for just about every possible top acting award, including the Academy Award for Best Actress, Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role.
The Thai government estimates that some 8,150 people died as a result of the horrific natural occurrence that hit several Southern Thailand tourist spots that day after Christmas.
Since then, María Belón Alvárez has become an advocate for survivors still recovering and dealing with the effects of the disastrous event.
“The tsunami was an incredible gift,” Belón explains. “I embrace life, and my whole life now is extra time.”
An unbelievably harrowing tale of coming out alive from a terroristic nightmare, “The Impossible” makes us all value life – as temporal as it is – and head for the desert or the mountains for vacation, instead of the beach.
SOURCES: theimpossible-movie.com; nytimes.com, Nov. 2, 2012