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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:

  • Adaptational Nationality: 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 Academy Award nomination in the big categories (Watts as Main Actress).
  • 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.
  • Arc Words: "Close your eyes, and think of something nice."
  • Aspect Ratio Switch: The aspect ratio shifts from cinematic 2.31:1 to 16:9 for the footage captured by the family's video camera on the morning of Boxing Day.
  • Bad Vibrations: The first sign of the impending tsunami is a glass door quivering.
  • Based on a True Story: A title card before the opening scene lets us know that the movie is based on real events.
  • 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!
  • Big Damn Reunion: Two in short succession at the hospital yard. First Lucas and his younger brothers have a heartwarming reunion and then their dad joins in the Group Hug as well.
  • 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.
  • Blood Is Squicker in Water: Maria's wounds.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Close on Title: The movie title doesn't appear until the very end.
  • Comforting Comforter: Maria gently puts her kids to sleep in an early scene, establishing her as a caring mother.
  • 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.
  • Compartment Shot: A shot from inside the fridge when Lucas takes out the coke.
  • Crisis Point Hospital: The family reunites at one.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Maria floating to the surface of the water during her Nightmare Sequence late in the movie.
  • Deer in the Headlights: During the tsunami at the resort, one woman is shown standing there in shock (unlike almost everyone else, who attempt to flee) as the tsunami strikes the pool area and is swept away.
  • Desolation Shot: The film has a couple of fly-up/zoom-out shots showing the devastated area left behind by the tsunami waves.
  • 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.
  • Disaster Movie: In this case, the actual Indian Ocean tsunami spectacle plays a minor role compared to the drama of the family's survival and reunion.
  • Dive Under the Explosion: Henry and his two youngest sons dive into the swimming pool which prevents them from being swept away by the Giant Wall of Watery Doom.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: While the movie starts with a scene on 24 Dec, most of the plot takes place on 26 and 27 Dec 2004.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Before going in for her second surgery, Maria softly tells Henry that she is ready to die. Ultimately subverted, she survives the surgery.
  • Fan Disservice: There's a quick shot of Maria's gashed, exposed breast.
  • File Mixup: While waiting at the hospital, Maria tells Lucas to leave her side and go help out however he can. When Lucas comes back, she is no longer at her bed but her file is still there. It turns out that she was labeled with the wrong patient name on her arm while she was being moved to another room.
  • Foreboding Fleeing Flock: One of the signs of the impending tsunami is a group of birds flying away.
  • Foreshadowing: We see Maria coughing in a scene shortly after the disaster. Later we learn that she swallowed a fishing line which she throws up at the hospital.
  • Giant Wall of Watery Doom: The tsunami wave that sweeps the resort.
  • Go into the Light: Maria's Nightmare Sequence at the hospital has a Crucified Hero Shot of her floating towards a light at the surface of the water. While it implies her approaching death, the next slow-motion shot shows her hand reaching out of the water, making it clear that we were witnessing a Disney Death.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Averted more often than not.
  • Headphones Equal Isolation: A blink-and-miss scene shows a completely unaware tourist in his chair with headphones on being swept away by the tsunami wave.
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...: On arrival at the hospital, Maria goes into shock and starts shivering while noting how cold the room has become.
  • Informed Self-Diagnosis: Downplayed. Maria is a doctor herself so she asks Lucas to look for anti-biotics in the hospital room to treat possible infections of her many wounds.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: When Lucas finds his mother gone at the hospital, he has a breakdown and his feeling of abandonment is underscored with a lonely piano.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Maria has one while in surgery, re-imagining herself during the tsunami.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Out-swim the tsunami wave.
    • Literally outrun in the case of the guy waving a towel, but it doesn't work.
  • Plot-Driven Breakdown: How the family reunion comes about. The truck Henry was traveling in refuses to start, giving him pause to look around the hospital yard and noticing the red ball. It makes him decide to depart. At the same time, the youngest son causes a delay of the onward travel of his truck due to his Potty Emergency, "buying" him and his brother just enough time to be around when Lucas screams out for his dad nearby. Cue the Big Damn Reunion.
  • 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.
  • Real-Person Epilogue: There is a scene before the closing credits showing a photograph of the real family the movie is based on.
  • 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.
  • Shell-Shock Silence: When Lucas gets swept away and hits his head underwater, the sound is muffled out except for a high-pitched ringing sound.
  • Trash the Set: The scene where the tsunami hits the resort could only be filmed once. It would have cost too much money to rebuild the set.
  • Trauma Conga Line: What happens to Maria (see Beauty Is Never Tarnished, above.) One reviewer joked that a suitable alternate title for the film would be "The Passion of Naomi Watts".
  • 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."