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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » The Impossible
The Impossible
Summit Entertainment // PG-13 // December 21, 2012
Review by Jeff Nelson | posted December 20, 2012 | E-mail the Author
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The news is always filled with heart-wrenching stories, often involving death. Some of the most soul-crushing reports to read are those about natural disasters. The Impossible tells a story revolving around the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. No matter how much time passes, the emotional power of this disaster will always be gut-wrenching. Director Juan Antonio Bayona and writer Sergio G. Sánchez have taken a huge risk by creating a motion picture around such a touchy subject. If it isn't done correctly, audiences could find it to be insulting to the victims and survivors. Fortunately, that isn't the case with The Impossible. If movies make you cry easily, then be sure to bring a box of tissues with you to the theater.

The plot follows the account of a family who went to Thailand for a relaxing Christmas vacation. They decide to spend time around the pool, when a massive tsunami hits the land and destroys everything in sight. While the family was fortunate enough to survive, they have all been separated and believe that the rest of their kin have died. This is the story of a loving family who want nothing more than to see each other again, but have been separated by one of the worst natural catastrophes of our time.

Director Juan Antonio Bayona gets straight to the point and doesn't spend a lot of time allowing us to become acquainted with the family. There's a solid amount of multitasking after the wall of water hits. While we're getting to know the characters, they're constantly developing from this tragic event. For most filmmakers, this would be considered biting off more than they can chew, but Bayona and writer Sergio G. Sánchez handle the ever-changing characters beautifully. This screenplay is well-structured and has smooth pacing. It's never boring and you'll find yourself extremely attached to these characters. The dialogue ranges from being solid to being overly-sentimental, which is one of this film's biggest problems. There's a big difference between being emotional and mushy. Numerous scenes are so over-the-top, that it feels unbelievably contrived. Since this is from the account of survivors, it should be more natural.

Regardless of some the overwhelming amount of sentimental pathos, The Impossible has its moments where it achieves an emotional state that movies constantly strive for. One can't help but ask oneself what they would do if they were involved in such a catastrophe. This picture draws us in with this idea, while still presenting characters you'll care for from start to finish. The plot constantly switches between different family members in order to provide a variety of perspectives. The father, Henry, is searching for his wife, Maria (Naomi Watts), and their son, Lucas (Tom Holland). The two of them are in rough shape, as Maria has been horribly injured from the disaster, which leaves her son to take care of her. Through this tragic situation, audiences are able to see how close this family truly is.This picture continues to get mushier with each minute that passes. The ending contains far too much pathos for my liking, but no matter how this ended, it could never be classified as an absolute happy ending.

This drama primarily relies on its actors to bridge the gap between the silver screen and the audience. Naomi Watts couldn't have possibly delivered a stronger performance. She's incredibly convincing, as she brilliantly conveys the relationship between a mother and her son. Watts could make any level of dialogue sound good with this representation. Ewan McGregor shines nearly as bright in the role of Henry. While he doesn't get quite as much screen time, he delivers one of the most memorable scenes of the entire feature. He has finally reached a refuge with other survivors and finds a man with a cell phone. Henry uses the phone to call home and he makes it one of the most difficult scenes to watch. He explains what happened and how much he misses his family, and soon begins to break down. McGregor will leave viewers choked up and on the edge of tears. Even the younger members of the cast are believable. Tom Holland interacts with Watts very well in the role of Lucas. The Impossible features an unbelievably talented cast, with Watts and McGregor delivering Oscar-caliber performances.

Natural disasters have found their way to a large amount of big blockbuster flicks, but they often look like a CG mess. However, director Juan Antonio Bayona has a masterful eye for visuals. He manages to make the ocean more terrifying than the film industry has been able to portray in years. The tsunami scene looks so incredibly real that audiences will be in absolute awe. The audio mixing is just as magnificent, as he tsunami sequence is an assault on the ears. The remainder of the movie focuses more on subtle surround elements, with dialogue placed front and center. The Impossible is a visually impressive feature, which makes it worth seeing on a big screen with the audio cranked up.

Summit Entertainment has released a film that will touch the hearts of audiences everywhere, and will leave numerous viewers in tears through its key moments. The cast is primarily responsible for the emotional punch. Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor deliver Oscar-worthy performances. However, the screenplay sometimes comes across as being overly-sentimental and contrived. Regardless, this movie is memorable for the emotional power it possesses. The Impossible is good, but not great. The film contains a bunch of irritating drama clichés, but the film also has its share of genuine moments that will generate audience responses. Recommended.

Order "The Impossible" now!
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