The Impossible is one of those movies most people should go see, even if they’re not a fan of stories of human triumph or in the mood to revisit what is pretty much (aside from the Haiti Earthquake in terms of sheer fatalities) the most tragic event in our lifetime. A true story of a family of five tourists being separated by the event and then surviving [ahem] impossible odds to reunite, the movie does a fine job of not getting too heavy handed and also does not shy away from the force and power behind the tsunami. The performances are all stellar with Naomi Watts getting the highest marks for a role that requires her to create emotion and depth while being subjected to some rather extreme body horror. Tom Holland does a fantastic job of carrying large chunks of the drama as the eldest son whose eyes we see much of the story unfold through and Ewan McGregor is his usual fantastic self.
Director J.A. Bayona instantly shows his versatility going from The Orphanage to this and his use of sound and a few very interesting stylistic choices keep the film from venturing into “movie of the week” territory. It’s not a resoundingly effective emotional smartbomb but it’s nowhere near as cheaply manipulative as films of this ilk tend to be. The effects are almost seamless and it shows just how far CGI has come in terms of nuance and effectiveness. The tsunami is easily more effective than anything to come out of a Roland Emmerich disaster sequence and coupled with the human story at the center of the movie the result is a worthy visit to the movie theater.
Why should I see this?
Well it’s not a happy story and the wounds are still raw for hundreds of thousands of people. But, in a world where we rewrite laws and attack media when a child unloads into his class and kills a handful of people it’s good to see how the rest of the world experiences hardship. Well over two hundred and fifty thousand people lost their lives and it’s certainly a perspective changer. And it’s well acted and beautifully shot and it shows a family whose story is frankly amazing. To survive that catastrophe that close to the sea is unbelievable and to hear stories from within that tragedy that actually restore faith in humanity is a nice change.
A note to cynics.
The family is white. This is not something to rail against no matter how thick your white guilt is. The family is white. It’s a true story and surely there are amazing stories of heroism and endurance for Thai, Indian, and many other nationalities and here’s hoping someone’s able to wrangle financing and talent to tell those stories. This is about a real family [nationality changed from Spanish though the film is a Spanish production] and there’s not an ounce of entitlement or snobbery at play.
A smart ass perspective.
Did I really need to see Naomi Watt’s tit ripped open?
Although the thrust of the film is not about the spectacle, Bayona delivers an amazing and much-needed burst of artistry and force late in the movie after things are nearly resolved. It showcases and further extends what happens to Watts’ character when the storm hits and it is lyrical, vicious, and Malick-esque all at once. Great stuff.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Nick On… Is my new ongoing movie review column. The goal is to distill things a little and make it a little more playful and easier to digest rather than the long form. Hope you like. Please let me know what you think as there will be many of these coming and the goal always is to improve. Please share and whatnot.