The caveat is that The Impossible has a fantastic cast and crew. There’s Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts anchoring things in front of the camera, and Juan Antonio Bayona rocking out behind it. It’s set in the midst of beauty cut down by tragedy. And of course it’s based on a true story which means it just has to be good! The film has received positive noise at festivals, the sort that we’re banned from attending, but I can’t help but watch this trailer and descend into a tirade of cynicism.
Well shit, a quarter million brown people died, but I had no idea that a white family on vacation got separated for a few days. If the news had just led with that back in 2004, people (and by people, I mean Westerners, naturally) might have given a damn about what was going on when the bottom dropped out of the Indian Ocean and in a few minutes the assorted countries ringing the epicenter lost five times as many people as America lost in a decade in Vietnam.
Look, I’m not saying that it is impossible to tell stories set in other parts of the world, and that we always have to return to some sort of liberal guilt over it being shittier there. That’s patronizing bullshit. And neither am I saying that it’s wrong to write Western characters in the context of those stories. Characters that see with our eyes provide a way into these worlds. The outsider is the shoulder upon which the viewer can ride.
And yet, this trailer (and I emphasize the trailer since I’m being vociferously harsh and those involved with the project have enough credibility that I extend some benefit of the doubt) commits the sin of trivializing the very horror it is trying to portray.