Impossible, The



Main Cast: Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts

Director: J. A. Bayona

We should be ready to begin shooting on Tiger Queen: The Carol Baskin Story next week. We decided to add the subtitle to pique public interest in the project as Carol is such a name who should garner immediate recognition as we begin disseminating publicity materials. It’s going to be a lovely musical fantasia. Mr. Curtis and Mr. David have created a scintillating screenplay that weaves in and out of time and uses hefty doses of magical realism to tell the story of a young lady, dreaming of rising to the heights of fame and fortune on the backs of the big cat sanctuary movement, and how she triumphs over a weird little redneck guy tweaking his way through some boring midwestern state with a band of unruly misfits, all while creating a tropical paradise for herself, her husband, and her tigers in the lushness of Florida.

It’s a foliage free-for-all!

We plan on shooting in Florida the first few weeks. I was hoping for Busch Gardens but there are apparently other projects using that location so we have had to settle for the lesser known Anhauser Playfield that’s a few towns down the road. There’s a crew down there now scouring every Michael’s in a tri-county area for silk foliage to augment the rather tired bank of oleanders and a drooping jacaranda tree that form the southern border of the park. Our first few days of shooting are going towards getting the title number just perfect. The lyrics are to die for: ‘I’m the tiger queen who vents her spleen. I’m no marine or philistine…’ It’s going to be sheer Hollywood magic.

I finished up rehearsals in my home studio and decided I had a little time to take for myself. I therefore withdrew into the home theater and searched for a film that might carry me away to a tropical paradise and provide me with inspiration prior to beginning shooting next week. I also armed myself with four or five pina coladas that Jackson, my sommelier, had made up in cored out pineapple shells and stored in the bar fridge. In noodling around through the offerings available on Netflix, I ran across The Impossible, the 2012 film about a family caught in the Indian Ocean Christmas tsunami of twenty years ago. Figuring I might pick up a tip or two on how not to construct our oceanfront sets for the shooting of the water ballet, I decided to give it a whirl.

The Impossible is a Spanish film, but made in English with predominantly English actors. It’s the true story of the Spanish Belon family who were enjoying a holiday at Khoa Lak in Thailand when the tsunami hit and upended their lives. For reasons of dramatic license the filmmakers anglicized the whole thing and the Belons became the Bennetts. Papa Henry Bennett (Ewan McGregor) and Mama Maria Bennett (Naomi Watts) and their three sons, Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast). They have been living in Asia where Papa works for some international corporation and decide to spend a relaxing Christmas holiday at the beach at a newly opened resort in Thailand.

On the morning of December 26th, while the family is relaxing at the pool, a wall of churning brown water suddenly rises up out of the calm bay and overwhelms the startled vacationers. Dad grabs his two younger sons to protect them while mom and oldest son Lucas are swept away. Maria is severely injured but she and Lucas manage to find each other in the swirling waters and survive, ending up at an overrun hospital trying desperately to deal with the victims of the tragedy. Lucas tries to protect his mother in a chaotic environment in which he does not speak the language. Dad and the younger boys, who have also survived, start a quest to find the missing family members.

Spanish filmmakers J. A. Bayona (director) and Sergio Sanchez (screenplay) wanted authenticity in the telling of the story. Much of The Impossible was shot in a large water tank in which the flood waters could be recreated. Naomi Watts and Tom Holland (age 14 at the time and in his film debut) were doused, hurled about and generally battered for real to get the shots and effects required. Watts was rewarded with an Oscar nomination. Holland, who practically carries the film, was rewarded with a career as people saw what a brilliant young actor he is. The tsunami sequence, which comes roughly fifteen minutes into the film, is brilliantly shot and edited. Showing the confusion, and then the panic, and then the randomness of fate as the Bennett family and other resort guests are picked up and bashed by all of the other objects the raging waters manage to carry away. While the overall arc of the film is positive, the European sensibility of the filmmakers doesn’t allow things to devolve into sentimentality or overly maudlin emotions that one might find if a Hollywood studio had been behind the project.

The flood scenes are done mainly with the water tank or with miniatures inundated with real water rather than relying on CGI. And that realness comes through. Khoa Lak, where the film takes place, was one of the hardest hit areas by the tsunami for reasons of geography. Its hotels and resorts were low rises built on a flat plain slowly rising out of the sea. This allowed an enormous amount of water to come ashore, with 20-35 feet of sea level rise and nothing much to slow it down. Roughly 5,000 people were killed in the area, about half of them tourists. There was no high ground for them to run to and the buildings weren’t large enough to truly protect them. There’s also a gritty realness to the hospital scenes with many more horribly injured and dying people, mainly dressed in the ragged remains of beach wear, being tended to by an exhausted staff who can’t effectively communicate with them due to language barriers.

The Impossible is definitely worth a look if you haven’t seen it and serves as a sobering reminder of how it only takes a minute or two for the world to turn upside down.

Exhausted children. Red ball. Gratuitous Geraldine Chaplin. Floating mattress. Leg injury. Chest injury. Hospital running. Family embraces. Blood vomiting. Someone in a tree.

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