Australian Council on Children and the Media

Impossible, The

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Not suitable under 13, PG 13-15 (Scary and disturbing scenes and themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Impossible, The
  • a review of Impossible, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 29 January 2013.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not suitable due to scary and disturbing scenes and themes
Children 13-15 Parental guidance recommended due to disturbing scenes and themes
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Impossible, The
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes, injury detail, brief nudity and infrequent coarse language
Length 114 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The Impossible is based on the true story of a family who, against all odds, survived the 2004 Asian tsunami.

 Maria (Naomi Watts), her husband Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their three children - 13-year-old Lucas (Tom Holland), 7-year-old Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and 5-year-old Simon (Oaklee Pendergast) - travel to Thailand for a Christmas vacation and stay at a luxury beachfront resort. On December 26th while the family is enjoying the resort swimming pool, the ground begins to shake, there is a rumble like thunder and palm trees along the beachfront begin to topple over. Without any warning a giant wall of water crashes down onto the resort, annihilating all in its path. Maria and Lucas miraculously survive, clinging to each other as they are swept along in the torrent of water. Eventually the torrent begins to subside and Maria and Lucas are able to wade through the debris and take refuge in a tree. However, while Lucas is largely unhurt, Maria is gravely injured - the back of her leg is torn open and she has a severe chest wound.  

Having no knowledge of what has befallen Henry and her two youngest boys, Maria fears the worst. The film from this point on follows the exploits of Maria and Henry depicting Maria’s rescued by Thai locals and her battle to survive her injuries, while Henry, who has managed to survive with the two younger boys, battles despair as he searches Thailand for Maria and Lucas.

 

The Impossible is based on the true story of a family who, against all odds, survived the 2004 Asian tsunami.

 

Maria (Naomi Watts), her husband Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their three children - 13-year-old Lucas (Tom Holland), 7-year-old Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and 5-year-old Simon (Oaklee Pendergast) - travel to Thailand for a Christmas vacation and stay at a luxury beachfront resort. On December 26th while the family is enjoying the resort swimming pool, the ground begins to shake, there is a rumble like thunder and palm trees along the beachfront begin to topple over. Without any warning a giant wall of water crashes down onto the resort, annihilating all in its path. Maria and Lucas miraculously survive, clinging to each other as they are swept along in the torrent of water. Eventually the torrent begins to subside and Maria and Lucas are able to wade through the debris and take refuge in a tree. However, while Lucas is largely unhurt, Maria is gravely injured - the back of her leg is torn open and she has a severe chest wound.  

 

Having no knowledge of what has befallen Henry and her two youngest boys, Maria fears the worst. The film from this point on follows the exploits of Maria and Henry depicting Maria’s rescued by Thai locals and her battle to survive her injuries, while Henry, who has managed to survive with the two younger boys, battles despair as he searches Thailand for Maria and Lucas.

The Impossible is based on the true story of a family who, against all odds, survived the 2004 Asian tsunami.

 

Maria (Naomi Watts), her husband Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their three children - 13-year-old Lucas (Tom Holland), 7-year-old Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and 5-year-old Simon (Oaklee Pendergast) - travel to Thailand for a Christmas vacation and stay at a luxury beachfront resort. On December 26th while the family is enjoying the resort swimming pool, the ground begins to shake, there is a rumble like thunder and palm trees along the beachfront begin to topple over. Without any warning a giant wall of water crashes down onto the resort, annihilating all in its path. Maria and Lucas miraculously survive, clinging to each other as they are swept along in the torrent of water. Eventually the torrent begins to subside and Maria and Lucas are able to wade through the debris and take refuge in a tree. However, while Lucas is largely unhurt, Maria is gravely injured - the back of her leg is torn open and she has a severe chest wound.  

 

Having no knowledge of what has befallen Henry and her two youngest boys, Maria fears the worst. The film from this point on follows the exploits of Maria and Henry depicting Maria’s rescued by Thai locals and her battle to survive her injuries, while Henry, who has managed to survive with the two younger boys, battles despair as he searches Thailand for Maria and Lucas.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Natural disaster; trauma; death and loss

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is no interpersonal violence of concern in this film

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

The film contains realistic intense and emotional scenes of the disaster, including graphic images of physical injuries, and multiple images of dead bodies. Examples include:

  • The scene when the tsunami arrives is very dramatic and scary. We hear sounds similar to thunder, see the ground shake and see rows of large palm trees along the beachfront topple over. A gigantic wall of water comes crashing down over rooftops and into the swimming pool area sweeping people away in its path. Maria and Lucas are swept along in the torrent of water shouting and screaming for help. During their plight we see dead bodies floating face-down in the water and see a car floating by and hear the sounds of a baby crying inside of the car. A second wall of water hits Maria and Lucas and we see Lucas tumbled about under water, being hit several times by debris. When he emerges he has bloody cuts and scrapes to his face. Maria also has bloody cuts to her face and both are crying and screaming out for each other. In a scene at the end of the film we see Maria relive her experience of being swept away by the tsunami wave, with further intense footage.
  • After surviving the tsunami, Maria has blood covering the front of her ripped tank-top and a bloody chest wound. We see a graphic image of her bloody and gaping leg wound with of torn flesh hanging from the wound. As Maria wraps her leg wound a stream of blood pours from the wound into the water. When Lucas sees a gaping and bloody wound in the back of his mother’s leg, he becomes very upset and distraught.
  • There are lots of bloody cuts on Maria’s face and shoulders, and see bloody scrapes and bruises down Lucas’ back.
  • A man who is rescuing Maria drags her by the shoulders through swampy water with Maria screaming out in pain and begging him to stop.
  • In a later scene we see Maria in hospital being injected with antibiotics and see antiseptic being poured over her leg wound, causing her to scream out in pain.
  • A woman lying next to Maria in hospital starts to cough violently and vomits up large amounts of clotted blood. Maria then begins to vomit blood herself and the end of a plant vine which she grabs, pulling a long vine from her mouth.
  • A number of scenes show Maria wearing an oxygen mask and appearing gravely ill. Her skin is grey, she has sunken eyes, has very laboured breathing and sweat covering her face. 
  • A number of scenes feature many dead bodies.
  • The film contains a number of scenes of hospital chaos with blood-smeared patients lying on floors and in stairwells. Blood is splattered over the floors and there are piles of blood soaked towels in some areas. There are background sounds of many people screaming in pain.  

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could particularly scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • As the tsunami subsides we see Maria and Lucas wading through swamp-like water and see the image of a dead dog with its mouth gaping open lying in reeds.
  • After leaving his mother’s hospital bedside for a short period of time Lucas returns to find his mother gone. Lucas panics and becomes very distraught, mistakenly believing that his mother is dead. He now believes his entire family is dead and is taken to a room full of orphaned children.
  • At one point during the film, in an effort to search for Maria, Henry leaves his two very scared young children with strangers. Before leaving the boys, Henry tells 7-year-old Thomas that he must look after 5-year-old Simon, with Thomas becoming distraught and saying that he has never looked after anyone before and doesn’t know how to.
  • We see a distraught man crying as he talks about losing his wife and 2-year-old daughter in the tsunami.
  • Henry breaks down and cries uncontrollably on the phone as he tells his father about the loss of Maria and Lucas. 
  • In an emotional scene while waiting to undergo surgery, Maria tells her husband that she is going to die and to take care of the boys.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above mentioned scenes

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Product placement

Thai Coca Cola

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity in this movie, including:

  • One scene depicts Maria changing her top and we see a split second, shadowy side-on glimpse of Maria’s breast. After surviving the tsunami, the left side of Maria’s tank-top is torn revealing Maria’s breast. Lucas sees and appears embarrassed, turning away and telling his mother that he couldn’t see her that way. Maria quickly ties up her top. In a later scene in the hospital, a doctor cuts the front of Maria’s tank-top to gain access to her wounds, briefly revealing Maria’s breasts. Again Lucas appears embarrassed.
  • Brief images of a nude man walking along the side of the road and of a nude woman lying on the side of the road, her arms cover her breasts and genital area.

Use of substances

Drinking of wine and cocktails at the resort

Coarse language

There is some low level coarse language in this movie, including:

  • "O my god", "where the hell", "damn"

In a nutshell

The Impossible is an intensely emotional drama based on a true story, and appearing very realistic. Adults who see this film may find it difficult not to be affected by the film’s emotional intensity and parents are strongly cautioned that the film is not suitable for children under thirteen. Parental guidance is recommended for children between the ages of thirteen and fifteen years because of the film’s emotional contents and realistic portrayal of death and injury.    

The main messages from this movie are:

  • The death and destruction caused by natural disasters can bring out the best in people, whether young or old, causing them to find strengths and abilities they never knew they had.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Empathy and caring for others: Throughout the film Lucas puts his own needs last and demonstrates high levels of empathy and care for both his immediate family and complete strangers.
  • Determination and persistence: Numerous characters throughout the film demonstrate determination and persistence in their search for lost love ones. Henry refuses to give up searching for Maria and Lucas, searching the flooded countryside and then every hospital until he finds his wife and child.  

Parents may also wish to discuss what makes individuals in very trying circumstances make selfless choices rather than thinking of their own needs first.

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