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Film / The Impossible

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A 2012 film about one family's impossible story during the Boxing Day Tsunami. The English Bennet family are on Christmas holiday in Thailand when the tsunami hits. Mother Maria Bennet, an ex-doctor, is swept out in the tidal wave with oldest son Lucas. Meanwhile, father Henry, by some miracle, manages to survive the wave hitting the hotel, and is there with another group of survivors and the two youngest sons, Thomas and Simon. Maria gains a whole host of nasty infections in a hospital, Henry sets out to find out whether she and Lucas even survived, leaving the two little boys with a group of kids who get taken up to higher ground.

The Impossible is based on the real-life events that happened to the Belon family from Spain during the events of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.


This film contains examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Maria desperately reaching for Lucas, as he is dragged out to sea, and both parents contemplating the other children's fate.
    • Henry telling Thomas and Simon that the scariest part for him was surfacing alone but seeing them both in a tree lessened his fear.
    • Henry telling Maria's father that he doesn't know what's happened to her or Lucas.
  • Agony of the Feet: Lucas's brothers get their feet burned when they are forced to walk barefoot across roofs.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Lucas at the beginning of the film.
  • Aluminium Christmas Trees: The movie is Based on a True Story and everyone in the family both survived and were reunited the way it's shown in the film. According to María Belón "the biggest lie in the movie" is that the real ball was yellow, not red.
  • Arc Words: "Close your eyes, and think of something nice."
  • Bad Vibrations: The first sign of the impending tsunami is a glass door quivering.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Severely averted with Maria, who gets as banged up, filthy, and horribly disheveled as you would expect from someone who's been hit by a tsunami. Complete with a scene where she accidentally swallows a fishing line covered in trash and pukes it up at the hospital!
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  • Bittersweet Ending: The family are reunited and survive, but then again, 250,000 lives were lost at the tsunami. It's strongly implied that the family of the German man who'd been helping Henry search are among them.
  • Body Horror: At one point Maria starts coughing up a bloody, matted fishing line.
    • The wound to her leg is pretty ghastly too, as are the brief shots of other tsunami victims' fractured limbs and battered bodies.
  • Book-Ends: Flying in and then out of Thailand.
  • Blood Is Squicker in Water: Maria's wounds.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A soda can is briefly shown before the disaster, as Lucas asks Maria, his mom, to drink and she, an ex-doctor worried about healthy nutrition, suggests not to. Few moments after, a similar can is floating in the water and it happens to be the only supply an agonizing Maria, Lucas and Daniel have.
  • Common Tongue: Most of the survivors speak English. According to real life survivors, Truth in Television. Despite varied nationalities, English was apparently the language most of them had a basic understanding of.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Maria floating to the surface of the water.
  • Did Not Think This Through: Henry sends off his younger sons, Thomas and Simon, to "safety" with a relative stranger so that he can look for his wife and older son, Lucas. He doesn't think about how he's going to find Thomas and Simon again, given that the older of them is only 7 years old and neither of them have any identification on them.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: The red ball.
  • Fan Disservice: There's a quick shot of Maria's gashed, exposed breast. You can... "appreciate" her mammary gland inside the cut.
  • Foreboding Fleeing Flock: One of the signs of the impending tsunami is a group of birds flying away.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: A PG-13 rated film gets a brief but nevertheless full-on shot of Naomi Watts' breast, managing to sneak past because the content of the scene (see above trope) is not the slightest bit erotic.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Averted more often than not.
  • Losing a Shoe in the Struggle: Most of the survivors end barefoot and with their clothes tattered after the tsunami.
  • Manly Tears: A particularly hard-hitting example. Henry holds up well until he is with a group of survivors and gets to call his father-in-law for the first time. He can barely say a few words on the phone before he becomes totally unintelligible due to a crying fit, and has to hang up. Also a case of Inelegant Blubbering.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Played straight but ultimately subverted during the reunion at the hospital. Simon and Thomas notice Lucas walking by and call out to him which allows them to reunite. They are reunited with their father shortly afterwards.
  • Nipple and Dimed: There's a blink-and-you-miss-it shot of Maria's breast and nipple when her shirt gets torn after the tsunami hits. The movie dodges an R rating most likely because her chest is badly bruised, filthy, and gashed up during the shot in question.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Maria has one while in surgery, re-imagining herself during the tsunami.
  • No Antagonist: The tsunami is the closest thing we have to one.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: After seeing the tsunami headed towards her, Maria braces for the impact, and it cuts to black. However, we do get to see what happened to her in a later scene.
  • Oscar Bait: Naomi Watts was nominated to the Oscar for best actress. She lost to Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Out-swim the tidal wave.
  • Potty Emergency: In a rare non-comedy example, Lucas's little brothers only find him because Simon really needed to pee and got off the transport, averting another Missed Him by That Much.
  • Race Lift: Downplayed, only the family's nationality is changed from Spanish to British (unstated, but the actors speak in British accents and have English name versions of their Real Life counterparts: Enrique is renamed Henry, Tomás is Thomas, etc). This is because Maria Belon wanted Naomi Watts to play her after seeing her in 21 Grams. It sure helped get the movie a larger release and an oscar nomination in the big categories (Watts as Main Actress).
  • Say My Name: Understandably, the older members of the family spend half their air time yelling the names of their relatives, as do many other survivors. Lucas is also tasked at one point to look for and reunite other survivors with their families.
  • The Scream: Maria clinging to the tree.
    • Maria underwater.
  • The Un-Reveal: The family's nationality is not stated (just that they live in Japan because of the father's job, and as the hotel worker notes, they "don't look Japanese") and there is no explanation of what caused the tsunami (or even a mention that it is a tsunami).
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: A woman is seen coughing up blood and debris in the hospital, and Maria does the same afterwards.
  • Waking Up Elsewhere: Maria.
  • Wham Line: "We are at the beach."


Example of: