The Impossible (2012)

by Paul on January 27, 2013

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★★★★

 

“The Impossible” (2012) is the unbelievably true story of one family during the events of the 2004 tsunami. While vacationing in Kaho Lake, Thailand, during Christmas, Henry and Maria Bennett (Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts)The Impossible (2012) and their three sons, Lucas (Tom Holland) Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast), are devastatingly torn apart when the tsunami strikes. The majority of the film follows Maria and her eldest son, Lucas, who get swept inland together. Maria suffers serious injuries requiring multiple surgeries, and Lucas divides his time between trying to help other survivors attempt to find lost family members and staying close to his mother.

How’s that for a brief synopsis? The plot for “The Impossible” is exactly what you would expect, since we already know about this devastating tragedy. The beauty of the film isn’t in the inventing of a dramatic story, but in the telling of amazingly true events. As the movie begins, very little time is wasted on back story because “The Impossible” is about what happens after the tsunami, instead of spending unnecessary time on the event The Impossible (2012)itself. Director J.A. Bayona wastes no time getting into the heart of his story, and it works well.

To say that “The Impossible” sends its viewers on an emotional rollercoaster is a severe understatement. This film is as powerful and heartbreaking as they come, mostly due to the acting from a superbly professional cast. Naomi Watts, who earned an Academy Award nomination for her performance, proves once again that she is one of the hardest working, most commanding actresses today. The emotion and pain in her eyes alone is enough to bring an audience to tears; but of course she doesn’t stop there. With the true heartbreak of a mother, she deifies all odds to survive the raging waters, in order to be with her son.  Ewan McGregor isn’t given as much time in the film, but he certainly takes advantage of the short time he has. It is one of the best performances we have seen from him in years, and shows the kind of dramatic abilitiesThe Impossible (2012) that he possesses. There is one scene involving a phone call back home that in just a matter of a few minutes reduces McGregor to tears, along with much of the theater.

The supporting cast, headed by Tom Holland as the eldest son Lucas, is sensational. If Holland’s performance in “The Impossible” is any indication, we have much to look forward to in his presumably busy future. Every great drama needs a character that evolves throughout the film, and in this story Lucas is that character. The younger brothers are also wonderful, but in smaller roles that are impressive yet somewhat brief. The three brothers together have a chemistry that would make one question whether or not they could be real life brothers. Since “The Impossible” is a film focused on this one family rather than the entire tragedy as a whole, the other characters are extremely limited. Still there is a touching scene between the middle son and a nameless stranger (the always excellent Geraldine Chaplin) that is extremely moving, and a couple of scenes where Lucas The Impossible (2012)tries to help some random searching people, but all of these roles are underdeveloped and brief. This is a five person show, and the focus on this one family helps take the awfulness of the actual event and keep it in the most positive light possible.

On the flip side of that same coin, by only having five main characters in an event that devastated so many people, some of the drama seems a bit drawn out. Scenes take longer than necessary, not during the tsunami, but rather in the aftermath. The filmmakers seemed to want to prolong the agony of the audience while we wait to see what has happened to each character, but instead of making it suspenseful, it comes off as a bit frustrating. No added suspense was needed because the story brought enough drama to the film on its own. With “The Impossible” there is no lack of intensity, and although it seems to take a while to get there (despite the 107 minutes running time), the final payoff is rewarding enough to fully satisfy; just be sure to be emotionally prepared.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sofia January 28, 2013 at 8:34 AM

the tsunami sequence is overwhelming, and after that I was so fragile that anything would make me cry. And the phone-call, gosh… the atmosphere in the theatre was so heavy. McGregor and all the other actors were absolutely terrific in this.

You’re right, the second half dragged for a bit. Still, it’s the most powerful disaster movie I’ve ever seen.

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Paul January 28, 2013 at 9:34 AM

I was a bit surprised by how powerful the performances were in this film. I expected them to be good, but I was blown away by how phenomenal everyone was consistently throughtout the story. I’m glad to hear that I wasn’t the only person crying through the whole film.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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