Review: 'The Impossible' as real as it gets
BY NOUR HABIB World Scene Writer
Friday, January 04, 2013
1/04/13 at 4:21 AM
"The Impossible" is a wonderfully crafted, wonderfully acted film based on the true story of a family caught in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Maria and Henry (Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor) are in Thailand on vacation with their three young sons.
The boys bicker; the parents make peace. The mother tickles her sons to wake them up; the father plays with them in the pool. They make a home video as they open Christmas presents. The husband talks to his wife about financial worries.
In short, their family could be your family. And that, perhaps, is what makes this movie so powerful. Because this movie is not simply a disaster movie. It is a movie about the bond of a family, and the agonizing terror of not knowing what has happened to your loved ones.
Ewan McGregor, Naomi
Watts, Tom Holland
AMC Southroads 20, Starworld
1 hour, 54
PG-13 (intense realistic
disaster sequences, including
disturbing injury images and
(on a scale of
zero to four stars)
The wave that hits on the morning of Dec. 26 separates the family, carrying Maria and her oldest son, Lucas (Tom Holland), away from the rest. The two are rescued by the locals and transported to a primitive hospital, where Maria has to wait her turn to be treated for a gaping leg wound in danger of getting infected.
It's hard to watch the disaster sequences in this movie, with the never-ending gush of water, the cries of infants in floating cars and dead bodies lining the streets. The hospital scenes, too, were difficult to take in. I found myself watching through my fingers at moments, to somehow shield myself from the pain and grotesque injuries.
But it's even harder to watch the raw emotion that is etched into the faces of the family and other survivors of whom we get quick glimpses. It's harder to hear the desperation in McGregor's voice as he calls hoarsely for his wife and oldest son, trying to find them.
Watts and McGregor offer impeccable performances in "The Impossible," performances that often require you to have your tissues handy. In a particularly moving scene, viewers will likely cry along with McGregor as he chokes over his words trying to tell his father-in-law what happened during a hurried conversation on a kind stranger's cellphone.
But the true stand-out performance comes from 16-year-old Holland, whose cinematic debut is nothing short of extraordinary. His face is so expressive, it tells a story with no words. You can see every emotion in his eyes, including the fear that every stranger's next words to him could be telling him that his mother has died.
There are those who will say - as a friend scoffed to me when she saw the movie trailer - that they're not interested in a movie that focuses on a tourist family and ignores the deaths of roughly 230,000 other people.
But by focusing on one family, the filmmakers succeeded in personalizing this tragedy. We still saw the widespread death and destruction caused by the disaster, but we were given a close-enough perspective that allowed us to realize just what kind of horrors the tsunami really wrought, as well as the kindness that it brought forth from strangers who sought to help and comfort one another.
And contributing immensely to this up-close look was the decision by Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona ("The Orphanage") to practically take viewers into the tsunami. Many of the scenes are shot at ground level, where the incessant wave feels like it's almost drowning the audience.
We're also often submerged underwater along with the cast, where we are treated to another of the movie's strong suits - its sound effects. Viewers will hear the thundering crush of the wave and, at times, the absolute and deafening silence far below the surface.
"The Impossible" is as real as it gets.
Original Print Headline: Taken By Tsunami
Nour Habib 918-581-8369
Samuel Joslin (left), Ewan McGregor, Oaklee Pendergast (foreground), Tom Holland and Naomi Watts star in "The Impossible." Summit Entertainment/Courtesy
Ewan McGregor stars in "The Impossible," a drama based on the true story of a family caught in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Summit Entertainment/Courtesy