When I was like 12, my family decided to go on vacation to Canada and see Niagara Falls. We got there, and it certainly looked like you’d expect Canada to look. My parents took me to see the waterfall from the upper right observation area. Then we walked about ten minutes and looked at it from a slightly different angle. Then we went on that boat and saw it from the bottom. Then we went to an observatory that was like halfway up. Then we looked at it from the top again. Then we went to the New York side and looked at it from that angle. Eventually I realized that this entire trip was planned to consist only of looking at this stupid heap of falling water. So I started to throw a major stink, and pretty much ruined the remainder of the vacation for the rest of my family. Do I feel bad about it? In retrospect, yes. At the time, no. I’ve since apologized to my dad about it in recent years. But anyway, that was the worst vacation I’ve ever been on. Now, does my Niagara boredom rank up there with getting hit by a tsunami, in terms of the worst vacation ever? I don’t know… I’m just sayin’, at least the tsunami was something interesting. So I watched The Impossible with high scrutiny as I compared it to my trip to Canada.
As kind of mentioned just above, The Impossible centers around a family (with Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts as the parents) who go on vacation to Southeast Asia in 2004, then get hit by a brutal tsunami. They all get separated in the disaster, but end up reuniting by the film’s end. I would say “spoiler alert”, but I’m not giving away anything that already wasn’t revealed in the trailer. The trailer goes as far as to give away the last scene of the movie. It was one of the worst trailers ever for giving away the entire movie. I mean, it was a predictable movie to begin with; I could have guessed everything that happened in it without seeing the trailer, but knowing every major plot point before it happened certainly didn’t help the film. The trailer gives away the following:
1. The exact scene that the tsunami hits, and the small events leading up to it (like the red ball being kicked). Even where certain people will be standing!
2. That Ewan MacGregor reunites with his two young sons, and they are relatively unharmed.
3. That Naomi Watts reunites with her oldest son while floating in the water.
4. Naomi Watts gets saved by natives and put in a truck heading to a hospital.
5. In the hospital, the oldest son spends his time helping other people find their families.
6. The scene and location in which the oldest son reunites with the two younger kids.
7. That Ewan MacGregor and Naomi Watts are happily back together in the last scene in the trailer, which is also the last scene in the film. So, you know, everyone lives and shit.
Other than a few minor things, there are not many other plot points in the film. Of course, the layout of a film isn’t necessarily the most important thing, but having seen this trailer five times before other movies, I knew basically everything that was going to happen before the opening credits rolled.
There were some things that the trailer doesn’t indicate, however… like the horrifying imagery I was subjected to. Real gross stuff like bloody eyeballs and huge gashing leg wounds. I don’t think I’ll be getting the image of Naomi Watts exposed breast, ripped halfway off her chest, out of my mind any time soon. Not to mention the action scenes involving the initial rush of the wave hitting were scary as hell. It made me, I don’t know, NOT ever want to experience anything like that myself…? Kudos to the film on making a tsunami feel like a horrible nightmare… It pushed the boundaries of gross and shocking things I expected to see in a PG-13 movie.
But other than the first couple of scenes, which were “character developing” scenes of the family’s vacation, the movie was pretty entertaining. And those first couple of scenes go by pretty quick and are only mildly boring. The best parts of the film are the tsunami action scenes and the immediate survival afterwards. But for every great scene of tension or heartwarming moment, we are subjected to terrible lines like “I’m normally a brave kid, but right now I’m scared.” What 12-year-old says that kind of shit out loud? I can see the look of fear on the kid’s face, he wasn’t the worst child actor I’ve ever seen, he didn’t need to say something that corny.
Yet I will admit that there were a handful of moments where my eyes got kind of watery. Actually, The Impossible left me an absolute emotional wreck after the film was over. But I think that’s only because for every moment that I was overcome with happiness, I only felt that way because I was tied up and dragged through the mud for 20 minutes beforehand. I was getting emotional over characters I just met two minutes prior, because the film is simply manipulating me. And it’s doing a great job doing so. Should I not get a little knot in my throat when a crying father is reunited with his bloody-nosed son? I assume most people would, because we’re human. Unless you’re a rabid Sim City fan, I don’t think a lot of people were rooting for the tsunami to win. Yeah, I felt a lot of emotion while watching The Impossible, but I’m not sure how much of it was genuine.
It also didn’t help that there’s basically no point to the movie. So now I’m getting emotional over a movie that didn’t even mean anything? That makes me feel ANGRY! Oh no! It’s manipulating me again! If the point of the movie was to never give up on your family, I think that was a non-lesson in this case. Because if looking for your potentially injured/dead family members in the few days after a terrible disaster is like a rare thing to do, and only special for this particular family, then I’m going to call bullshit… And I’m not sure that’s entirely worthy of highlighting. EVERYONE was looking for their family members. Every extra in the background of this movie was going through THE EXACT same scenario as Ewan McGregor. So to single this family out as a model with which to learn a lesson from is a standpoint I’m not completely buying.
The only thing I really took away from the film was that the ocean is a cruel killing machine that attacks without warning and there’s nothing you can do about it. I already despise what’s swimming in the ocean (did you know the deadliest shark attacks happen in three feet of water? You can’t even play frisbee in the ocean without threat of death), and now I have to worry about the surface level creating giant waves of mutilation. The very last shot of the film is a silent shot of a calm, blue ocean; and I’m 100% serious that when this shot came up, I actually said aloud in my head “You cold, murdering bastard…” TO THE OCEAN! I literally shot an angry stare to a body of water. So yeah, if there’s one thing I took away from The Impossible, it’s that I hate the ocean.
So, was my Canadian vacation a worse experience than the events that transpired in this film…? I GUESS NOT… (rolls eyes). Actually, watching The Impossible was more entertaining than my entire trip to Canada. But much like staring at that stupid waterfall, it’s only worth looking at once.
6.5 out of 10