Published on July 22nd, 2013 | by Allan Brown2
The Impossible Review
Movie Review: The Impossible (2012)
Director: Juan Antonio Bayona
Cast: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland
Plot: The true account of a family separated during the devastating effects of the 2004 Tsunami fight amongst thousands of strangers in an attempt to find each other.
The term “Disaster Movie” is liable to conjure up images of camp disposable entertainment, involving giant asteroids and the worlds certain annihilation. Deep Impact, Armageddon, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow are to name but a few examples. Therefore attaching it to a film like “The Impossible” feels unfitting considering the raw emotional and true life circumstances on which the film is based.
On December 26, 2004 an earthquake with the energy of 23,000 atomic bombs caused a 600 mile long rupture in the Indian Ocean floor. This natural event initiated a 98 ft high Tsunami which went on to kill an estimated 230,000 people in 14 different countries. “The Impossible” specifically tells the true life account of the Belon family who were separated from each other when the wave hit the beachside resort of Khao Lak in Thailand.
Spanish Director Juan Antonio Bayona who in 2007 brought us the much praised movie The Orphanage brings this harrowing true life tale to the big screen. Maria Belon survivor of which this story is based co-wrote the screenplay and was there for reference during the 7 month shoot.
The content of the film is told in parallel stories, Henry (Ewan McGregor) who is with his two younger sons Thomas and Simon struggle in the panic of the aftermath to reunite with wife Maria, whilst eldest son Lucas (Tom Holland) remains strong for his Mother (Naomi Watts) who is badly injured and fast losing hope.
The Impossible’s centre point is significantly the tsunami event and the opening 10 minute sequence is truly gripping, immersive, horrifyingly realistic and impressively executed. The decision to recreate the event using physical effects (in the world’s largest water tank) as appose to recreating digitally was certainly the way to go and gives a genuine feel of realism.
With that said, the aftermath inevitably feels somewhat anti climatic, as the family makes the slow, arduous and often tedious journey to find one another. Although a true story the film plays out as one big cliché with the characters playing to a general type instead of any with individual merit, this unfortunately overshadows any room there might have been for character development. In fact, throughout the drama we barely learn anything about the family and ultimately besides a few mediocre performances they come across as boringly generic and uninteresting which is unfortunately the films downfall. From time to time and especially during some of the longer laborious scenes the Director focuses on shock tactics which materialise as a close up of a horrifying open wound, a decomposing body or were characters are uncontrollably coughing up debris they have swallowed during the event. These frequent shock em scenes play in an attempt to draw you back in to the immediate story or for some, to waken you up.
Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor give ok performances if a little rigid at times, in roles I’d classify as average. Watts has a little more to do with, particularly during the numerous scenes where she’s bedridden, however, these scenes soon become overused and tiresome driving the already slow pace to a near halt. Newcomer young Tom Holland gets more screen time than either star and acquits himself well although at times the weight of the film feels a little heavy to be carried on the shoulders of such an inexperienced actor who at times struggles to evoke the emotion the scene demands. An opposing parallel comparison would be Christian Bale’s performance as Jim ‘Jamie’ Graham in Stephen Spielberg’s “Empire of the Sun” which draws many similarities to this film, only executed significantly better.
The films Soundtrack and Score by Fernando Velázquez although beautiful is by no means subtle. Its often obtuse and manipulative play over sentimental set ups in a bid to hijack your emotions, is weak film making and ultimately leaves you feeling cheated by a movie that certainly doesn’t deserve the emotion that it will undoubtedly claim from you.
Summary: Ultimately "The Impossible" feels like little more than an average drama with characters that lack depth and a script that often feels, like a script. The films only saving grace is in its genuinely dynamic 10 minute opening sequence.