'The Impossible' Review: True Tale Proves Emotionally Captivating
It's been about eight years since a massive tsunami devastated much
of the Asian continent. The tsunami hit the day after Christmas in 2004 and
killed more than 100,000 people. It also affected millions of other
families who were in the area or who knew those directly affected by the
“The Impossible” chronicles one American family that was on vacation
when the devastating event occurred.
Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor star as Henry and Marla, a young couple
raising three mischievous but endearing brothers. The family is enjoying
their trip when during a visit to the pool, the ocean -- so beautiful at a
distance—erupts and a massive wave overwhelms the coastal area. Homes are
shattered. Families destroyed. Lives changed.
It is in that sequence and the ensuing ones that director Juan Antonio
Bayona propels the audience into the story.
The chaos of the tsunami is
frantically shot as survivors attempt to peek out of the water to stay alive.
Maria emerges from the water seconds at a time looking at the surrounding area
and trying to locate her lost children and her missing husband.
In a few heart-breaking sequences, Maria spots her oldest child Lucas (Tom
Holland) and attempts to reach him. The water is too fierce though as the two
drift, swim and fight to make it through the flood. Of course, their bodies are
being propelled by pounds of water as both are pushed and prodded
by normal everyday items that are as armful as weapons in the open water.
Although none of the members of the family are well-established as the film
begins, the scenes of this duo trying to find each other are emotionally
gripping. The director creates an intense and personal scene where viewers are
likely to connect with the situation onscreen more than the particular
characters. Those moments alone are enough to merit a recommendation.
As the water settles and the two survive that first ordeal, they are rescued
by locals who bring them to a makeshift shelter. Meanwhile, Henry searches
unflinchingly for the missing members of his family. It would be wrong for me
to spoil who survives the storm. What I can note is that the love and
affection the members of this family share with one another never disappears
from the screen from one heart-breaking scene to the next.
Admittedly, the second half of the story falters a bit, and it's obvious that
the filmmakers are simply looking for ways to keep members of this family away
from one another for dramatic effect. There is one long sequence where several
individuals stand feet away from each other without knowing it. Such clichéd
sequences serve to undercut the real power and urgency underlying the
“The Impossible” features two solid performances by Watts and McGregor but
the greatest acting chops are shown by the young Holland. This boy is put through an intense
ordeal as he attempts to save his injured mother and tries to locate his
siblings and father. But through it all, Holland
shows a sensitivity and a depth of feeling that gives the film a more potent
power than it might have had otherwise.
The complete story, though flawed in its execution and with a few ending
moments that seem blatantly out of place, is brought to vivid and powerful life
in “The Impossible.” Just make sure to bring tissues to the theater when you