Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile Previous Previous Next Next
The Impossible - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The Impossible
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B

The Impossible both starts and ends a little contrived. That's not exactly what you want in a story purported to be a true story. If you like natural disasters, though, whoa does this movie deliver.

We all know about the tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004. Nearly 300,000 people died, but of course we don't want to know those stories -- we want a movie that highlights hope amidst all that death. There's nothing wrong with that, per se, although this movie in particular is arguably not as frank as it should have been. There's a single shot of a dead body in the mud and rubble. We see other bodies but they are all lined up in bags at a hospital.

Truly it is amazing that one family of five, all of them swept up in the current, survived intact. I do wonder why the real people, who were Spanish -- and this is a film from Spain -- were replaced by British characters, played by Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor. Star power, perhaps. There are Spanish stars too, though. Maybe Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz were busy.

The story, as told here, really revolves around the mother, Maria (Watts), and her eldest son, Lucas (an excellent Tom Holland). As soon as the tsunami hits, these are the two we follow exclusively for some time. It's a miracle they even saw each other while floating along the rapids.

We never do learn a whole lot about this family. We know they live in Japan, and the mother is a doctor currently staying at home to take care of the kids. What dad Henry (McGregor) does for a living is never stated. They're vacationing in Thailand for Christmas. They're in a resort on the beach; they eat in pretty restaurants; they make home videos of Christmas morning in their hotel room. There are some ominous shots of the ocean that I could have done without. What is this, a monster movie?

I suppose it could be said that this tsunami was the ultimate monster. There are some interesting editing choices. Director Juan Antonio Bayona shows only just enough of the tidal wave, and never dwells on it. It sears into your memory, and if it looks amazingly real as opposed to most CGI, that's because it is: he did those shots using an actual wave of water rushing over miniatures. As the water rushes upon this family, lounging around the pool at their resort, Henry grabs the two younger children (Samuel Joslin and Oaklee Pendergast). Maria crouches next to a plate glass window (why there?) and braces herself. Lucas jumps into the pool.

It's been reported that Maria Belon, on whom Maria is based, was involved in all aspects of the filming process. Aside from the color of the ball the boys were playing with, "the rest is exactly the same," she says. Once the tsunami hits, and it doesn't take long, The Impossible stays in the moment. This is some seriously harrowing stuff, and generally very well rendered. There are many underwater shots that had me covering my eyes: Maria getting jabbed in the side by a tree branch; Lucas getting smashed in the head by metal debris. Their bodies getting swirled around in every direction, underscoring how amazing it is they got out of this alive.

There's a fair amount of attention going to Naomi Watts for her performance, and it is deserved. There are other moments, though, that come across less as genuine than as people acting. This is particularly the case when family members reunite. Don't get me wrong; it still tugged at my heart strings, and I was glad to have grabbed several napkins for wiping away tears. But that was the point: this may be based on a true story, but it's still in many ways a conventionally manipulative tearjerker.

By and large, The Impossible is riveting. In the end, things are tied up far too tidily for real-world probabilities. There's a scene in a hospital where Henry and Lucas have not yet found each other but keep crossing each other's paths. There's no way they could have known that was "exactly the same," as they didn't actually see each other until finally spotting each other -- which, by the way, happens at the same moment that the two little brothers, who also had been separated from the family, found them. This isn't exactly a spoiler, since the whole point of this movie is that the family survived intact. But this is a movie version of how it came about, which necessarily involves ratcheting up the drama and waterworks.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, in principle. This is a movie, after all -- true story or not. And it's an amazing story, decently told.

One family overcomes incredible odds in THE IMPOSSIBLE.</a>

Overall: B
Leave a comment