THE IMPOSSIBLE (2012)


impossible Greetings again from the darkness. Director Juan Antonio Bayona and writer Sergio C Sanchez reunite for a much different film than their taut thriller The Orphanage (2007). What separates this from the long list of disaster films is that it’s exceedingly well made, it’s based on a true story, and it puts a young actor in a role vital to the connection with audience.

The real life Belon family from Spain have for some reason been presented here (by Spanish filmmakers) as the British Bennett’s with Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts (as Henry and Maria). They are on vacation at a beach resort with their three boys Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin), and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast). In the beginning the resort plays like paradise. Unfortunately, this is Thailand in 2004 when one of the worst impossible2natural disasters of all-time hits … a Tsunami with enormous force and monstrous waves.

Filmed with remarkable intensity, we see Maria and Lucas (separated from the others) struggle mightily to survive and stay together. This 10 minute sequence leaves the audience spent and gasping for air. Rarely do we witness such realistic near-drownings on screen. The film soon breaks into two simultaneous acts: the fight for survival by Maria and Lucas; and the quest to find them by Henry, Thomas and Simon.

The first half of the film is the strongest portion and it deals with the storm and it’s aftermath. The second half is very emotional impossible3and focuses on the courage of Lucas and the strength of Maria. It’s one of the most unique combination tales of survival and family love that we’ve seen. The filmmakers wisely choose to let the story follow the family and not throw in cheap parlor tricks like TV newscasts. We all remember those reports, and the actual film does a terrific job of recreating the frightening images.  There is also a short, but sweet (almost mystical) scene featuring Geraldine Chaplin (daughter of Charlie) contemplating the stars.

Acting by the leads take this to elite status. Ewan McGregor turns in what is his best performance in quite some time. His phone call home scene is excruciating to watch. Naomi Watts delivers what is likely an Oscar nominated performance, despite being almost unrecognizable while laying in a hospital bed during much of the film. The real star and soul of the film is Tom Holland as the youngest son. His performance recalls those of Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit and Shailene Woodley in The Descendants … two of the best ever child performances.

Be forewarned. This one is a true tearjerker … especially if you are a parent or grandparent. Keeping in mind that it’s the true story of one family’s ordeal makes a few scenes almost impossible to watch clear-eyed. The film ends with a photo of the Belon family … perfect.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you enjoy a good tear-jerker, especially if based on a true story OR you want to what terrific filmmaking in a disaster movie looks like OR you need proof that it is possible to make Naomi Watts look unattractive.

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: watching the trailer eclipses your preferred public display of emotion

watch the trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bgw394ZKsis

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5 Responses to THE IMPOSSIBLE (2012)

  1. Bruce says:

    These comments contain SPOILERS.

    I saw this last night and felt that it was more like a Lifetime channel presentation than a feature lenght film. While I appreciate the ordeal of everyone involved, so many of whom did not survive, I was surprisingly unmoved by this movie. Once we knew that all the family survived (which most viewers knew before the lights were dimmed) it was just a matter of time before they were reunited.

    The Geraldine Chaplin scene was so out of place it hurt to watch it. (note to self: don’t get old).

    I generally enjoy seeing Naomi Watts, but I enjoyed her in King Kong more than here.

    • Certainly understandable that some might be moved more by a scantily clad naomi watts being held captive by a giant ape than by the true story of a family fighting to survive and reunite after a natural disaster. By default, true stories can be termed anti-climatic (Apollo 13, Lincoln, etc). The Geraldine Chaplin character was included at the request of the family as the “real” lady left quite an impression. Maybe I wouldn’t have liked it as much if I watched more Lifetime movies!

  2. Debra Godby says:

    Bruce is clearly frigid! This is a true story & the scenes he criticized actually happened. Did he want to rewrite it with Maria in a string bikini?

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