|Rating: The Good – 79.7
Genre: Drama, Disaster
Duration: 114 mins
Director: Steve De Jarnatt
Stars: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland
Profoundly touching and heartfelt with a level of honesty not often achieved from big budget films, The Impossible recounts the true life ordeal that two parents and their three kids endured when the tsunami hit their Thai holiday resort on 26th December 2004. Although the disaster affected millions of people from all nationalities (but mainly the natives of the surrounding islands and coastlines), Sergio G. Sánchez and María Belón’s screenplay focuses on this one family as they are initially separated into two groups and their efforts to locate each other in the devastation left behind. It’s emotionally grueling stuff and the writers and director J.A. Bayona pull no punches in their depiction of the damage, bodily or subjective, incurred by the protagonists.
Despite such an unflinching account, The Impossible becomes and invigorating and deeply uplifting movie going experience thanks largely to its meditative and soulful extrapolation of context that strikes a balance between the primal form of Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock and the natural form of Malick’s work. At all times the emotional drama takes precedence even, and most impressively, during the tsunami sequence. As we watch the destruction take place, Bayona shoots it through the perspectives of the mother (Naomi Watts) and her son (Tom Holland) as they’re repeatedly thrown together and ripped apart all the while grappling with the implications of what this disaster is going to do their lives even if they survive.
As is crucial, the inner turmoil is complemented by the tsunami sequence itself for, as was surely the case with the actual tsunami, little will prepare you for the visceral impact of this film’s depiction of it. It’s a ferociously immersive tempest of sound and visuals steeped in as much physical authenticity as emotional. As swirling cross currents zip loved ones apart amidst jagged debris and filthy water, one gets the feeling they’re seeing it as it actually happened. And as one watches Watts and her onscreen son scrape and claw for life and for each other, one gets the distinct impression they are experiencing it that way too. It’s as pure and powerful an action sequence as we’ve come across on film and like the best action sequences, it’s one that provides a catalyst to the gamut of emotions the characters have to run through for the remainder of the film.
Watts for her part is sensational even by her standards and she nails the imperative balance between strength and vulnerability. Holland is impressive in the role of her eldest and most mature son and actually carries the film for large segments. On the other side of the tale is Ewan McGregor as the father who is left to roam the towns and countryside in the attempt to reunite the family he desperately believes are still intact. He too does a tremendous job in giving his character an engaging believability and is responsible for the film’s most heart-rendering moment.
If there was one criticism to be levelled at this movie it’s the tendency to focus largely on the tourists’ experiences. This was an understandable decision and one that was probably made, at least in part, because it would help to better engage western audiences. It doesn’t damage the integrity of the film but given the extent to which the native populations of the islands and coastlines were affected, it might have behooved the writers to make greater reference to it. Nonetheless, The Impossible counts as a welcome departure from most modern day disaster epics in that it persistently does justice to the primacy of the emotional turmoil which these films normally merely pay lip service to in an effort to pack in as much action as possible. And in achieving such sensitivity, it takes on a uniquely affecting power ensuring that this film will stay with you a long time.© Copyright 2014 Derek D, All rights Reserved. Written For: movieshrink.com