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The Impossible

Lo imposible 2012 | 113 min | PG-13 | 2.39:1

The Impossible


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Theatrical release date

 21 December, 2012
 02 January, 2013

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The Impossible Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, December 28, 2012

Regular moviegoers, the weekend warriors, are repeatedly assaulted with images of disaster, often taking on a global reach of apocalyptic doom. One becomes desensitized to such grand illusions after a while, regarding the end of the world as a time when the Capitol Records building eats it, the Eiffel Tower takes a tumble, and Red Square is reduced to rubble. “The Impossible” is a harrowing reminder of real-world nightmares, with the film dramatizing the devastation and anguish that followed the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami disaster in a frightfully vivid manner, taking a refreshingly blunt perspective on the challenges of survival and the tenacity of the human spirit. Although it sounds like a downer, “The Impossible” is actually emotionally satisfying and educational in a way, with director Juan Antonio Bayona doing a superb job keeping the details vital and the characters admirably resolute.

Taking a much needed Christmas vacation to Thailand, Henry (Ewan McGregor), Maria (Naomi Watts), and kids Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin), and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast), have settled in for a relaxing stay on the beach, looking to celebrate the holiday without the interference of work. During a morning of pool play, the family is split up when a massive tsunami hits the coast, decimating the resort, with Maria and Lucas immediately fighting surging waters while the mother is torn to shreds by uprooted trees and violent underwater debris. Struggling to locate safety, Lucas comes to understand his role as protector, guiding Maria to helpful locals and eventually into a hospital where her severe wounds keep her on the brink of death. After the tsunami, Henry has managed to protect Thomas and Simon, setting out to locate his wife and child as rescue efforts begin to take shape. Slowly accepting the gargantuan loss of life around him, Henry struggles to sustain hope as he marches across the land with other stunned folk hunting for their loved ones.

“The Impossible,” scripted by Sergio G. Sanchez, is based on a true story, with the featured family switched from Spaniards to Brits, despite the picture being a Spanish production. Nevertheless, nationality isn’t the primary concern here, only the authenticity of the struggle, and Sanchez and Bayona have made sure the audience feels every last ounce of concern emerging from these characters as they’re faced with the fight of their lives, overwhelmed by a terrifying act of nature.

I understand that “The Impossible” sounds like a frightening picture, immediately repelling those who seek out lighter diversions when it comes to multiplex selections. However, the feature, while suffocating at times, isn’t obsessed with the particulars of death and destruction. Instead, the production keeps close to moments of survival and connection, with the disaster reinforcing the bonds of family as the participants are pushed to their physical and psychological limit. Bayona takes care to reinforce moments of hope, however small they may be, keeping the viewing experience straightforward with discoveries and setbacks, without much lost family near-miss manipulation that’s common to the genre. “The Impossible” is approachable, taking time to process the significance of the event and how it impacts the characters as they strive to reclaim the family unit in the midst of chaos. There’s a human element to the film that’s masterfully rendered, keeping “The Impossible” from becoming just another demo reel of visual effects and melodramatic acting.

While heart is in abundant supply during “The Impossible,” there’s also a tsunami to dramatize, providing the film with its most distressing moments of bodily trauma and discouragement. It’s not an explicit, grand CGI event, but a series of visual body blows intended to recreate the agony of treading violent water and the desperate reach for higher ground. The moment of collision is chilling, yet deeper wounds come into play later in the picture, when the family individually considers the enormity of their dilemma, with Lucas and Maria accepting the death of Henry and the boys, while witnessing a secondary wave of suffering hit their hospital, observing other panicked souls hunting for survivor information. There’s also an abyssal feeling of guilt and shock slowly swallowing Henry during his trek, crippling the man as hope runs out.

Acting in “The Impossible” is expectedly passionate and defenseless, but Bayona deserves special credit for managing his younger actors, guiding them to natural performances, with young Hooper an especially promising standout in a complex role. Watts and McGregor provide a haunting sense of panic and grief, but more impressive is how well they sell the make-up work, which is nothing short of outstanding. With gruesome wounds and hospital bed frailty, the bodily destruction is scarily realistic, handing the cast a proper motivation to ease the demands of communicating ungodly pain.

“The Impossible” finds a satisfying conclusion, though one that’s marked by a somber tone of devastation, supplying a poignant look at the desperate atmosphere surrounding the tsunami. Still, there’s light piercing through the gloom and doom, keeping the viewing experience approachable and, at times, exceptionally emotional.

Starring: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland (X), Geraldine Chaplin, Marta Etura, Ploy Jindachote
Director: Juan Antonio Bayona

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The Impossible, Forum Discussions

Last post
Movies ruined by the impossible 246 Jul 27, 2013
ILM - Creating the Impossible 1 Oct 31, 2010

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