January is the month where the studios dump their drek, in to the cineplex, back out again before you even notice. Luckily, it's also the month where a lot of good movies, released last the previous year to qualify for awards season, linger - so there's still plenty to see."The Impossible" is one such; the true story of the tsunami that hit Thailand in 2004 (Indonesia got it far worse, but then the subjects in this story were in Thailand, so there you go), and how one particular family tried, against all odds, to survive.Watching some of the home videos that had currency at the time, I didn't think I wanted to see more - but the performances of Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor (and even the kids!) made it worthwhile. But be warned, it's not a relaxing film ever.If you can imagine miles of infrastructure wiped out in the blink of an eye, tens of thousands of bodies washing around stinking up the place, the enormous demands placed on first responders, hospitals, military, police, and swarms of people just trying to survive, then you have a pretty good idea of the two hours ahead of you. Nobody has food. Water water everywhere, and all of it polluted. Houses reduced to toothpicks. Gasoline in short supply. Electricity out. Chaos as people try to find loved ones, and often don't, ever, as bodies are swaddled and carted away for burial or cremation to avoid disease. It's not a pretty picture.There's a dread for the first ten minutes as we await the "ticking time bomb" and watch the family frolic on a happy Christmas vacation, and then suddenly...Yes it's a Hollywood movie with some expected Hollywood cliches, but it kept nagging at me: "this actually happened." "And this is the Hollywood version, which means it's prettier than the reality."Watts manages to make the most out of a largely horizontal performance, and McGregor is solid as the Father-Knows-Best Dad, and the effects, and there are many, don't get in the way. More than that, actually, there are some shots which try to steer you into the scope of the disaster, an impossible task in an impossibly huge cataclysm. Do you remember when it happened? Did you make a contribution to the Red Cross or other relief organization? It wasn't enough.
The movie looked interesting.I guess I still have difficulties with yet another movie about how third world disasters affect affluent westerners.Was that an issue?
Was that an issue? There was a period immediately after the disaster where every person is equal. As someone is floating past you trapped in a wall of debris there's no hierarchy. It seemed less egalitarian in the hospital, where most of the featured actors were Westerners. Not all, certainly, but a lopsided percentage. Of course you might explain that away if you knew the location if the hospital and cross checked it with how many tourists were at the coastal resorts versus how many natives lived farther inland or something, but we never really get such data.SPOILER: . . . . . . . . . . But yes, the ending would bother you greatly. As a white, middle class Westerner I noticed it but dismissed it as Hollywood. A third world viewer would likely have a darker take.
But yes, the ending would bother you greatly.Oh, I’m sure I’d enjoy it.But out of respect for third world people I think it’s my duty to feel guilty about it.
Thailand is my 'default home' .. I'm actually in indonesia as I write this having just come from 7 weeks there (my 10th time in Thailand in 20 years) and I will return to there in another 3 weeks or so. I was in Thailand about 2 weeks after the tsunami. My strongest personal memory (outside of the media reporting) was of walking by a local police station in Bangkok and seeing that a large wooden wall that stands to one side of the station -- maybe 9 ft. high by 30 long -- had been totally taken over as a sort of impromptu bulletin board and it was COVERED with many HUNDREDS of typed out and hand scribbled notes, two-thirds of them from Western families who had been vacationing and the rest from Thais, all of them DESperate pleas for help in finding ANY word on their husbands, wives, grandparents, children, etc. There was a crowd of silent onlooker/readers and the notes themselves were absolutely heartbreaking. Many of them included pictures -- some just descriptions -- and the ones seeking kids, sometime two or three very young childen who simply *vanished* in an instant, were absolutely impossible to read without coming to tears. No one standing at that wall said a single word to one another. Even those who approached it together drifted apart and could not take their eyes off of what they were seeing and wrapped a natural cloak of isolation around themselves. When they were 'done' they would drift off to the side and sit down and stare silently until their partner joined them, then the two of them would sit in silence. I can't recall ever experiencing such a public place of palpable depth of sadness and horror. Those notes. I am an avid picture taker but I could not even bring myself to 'snap shots' of them. To say that they were raw and desperate does not truly describe them. You could *feel* these notes walking past them at 40 feet away. Their writers were every one of them clearly falling apart as humans -- disemboweled by grief and loss at the height of a dreamlike day in Paradise. Yes, (to answer your question), I sent more money to the tsunami relief funds than I've ever sent to anything before or since.nl
I can't recall ever experiencing such a public place of palpable depth of sadness and horror. Same as the walls set up around the WTC site right after 9/11. We were there a couple months later and wall after wall of messages and flyers were still whipping in the wind.
I finally saw this movie and, not to be an old curmudgeon, but I found it to be formulaic, predictable and shallowly directed. I know it's over now and the wave(of enthusiasm) has passed, but I only just now got back from 3 months in that exact zip code and am catching up on a few movies missed while away. I thought that the acting was quite good -- but the story was not a story .. it was a 'circumstance'. And the director just wanted to show the wave -- which he manages to show a second time near the end -- and then he wasn't sure WHAT to do. I will say that if I were a story teller with images I could NOT have seen the original footage of that tsunami over and over again without something in me absolutely determining to 'make a movie' out of it --- it is one of if not THE iconic image of the first decade of this century. But still and all -- I couldn't recommend this movie to anyone -- unless they just want to see that incredible wave again, which remains about the most riveting image anyone has ever seen. nl
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