The Impossible (2012)

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 8.1/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 9/10

THE IMPOSSIBLE (2012) - Juan Antonio Bayona

I was only ten years old at the time, yet to this day I still remember seeing the catastrophic waves on TV, taking away over 250,000 lives. I was told by my parents about how the water started receding first, early in the morning, and in seconds a wall of water engulfed the entire shore and road. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami is the deadliest tsunami ever recorded in history. The Impossible is the true story of one family, fighting for survival.

The film revolves around the Bennett family -- Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan McGregor), the eldest twelve-year-old son Lucas (Tom Holland), and two younger sons, seven and five -- on a Christmas holiday in Khao Lak, Thailand. After the tsunami hit, the family is split in two, leaving them and other survivors struggling to seek help and find their lost loved ones.

Director Bayona, known for his previous work The Orphanage, is an extremely talented visual artist. Prioritizing the realism of the disaster, (I'm going to use "realistic" many times) Bayona chooses unique shots that are framed to be a certain character's point of view. In addition, he takes his time in immersing the audience into the world of Khao Lak. With several nature shots of flowers, fish, fruits, and colorful animals, the film gives us a sense that no such kind of disaster can ever occur at this peaceful place. But once the water does come, the tone of the film shifts immediately, just like it should.

The actual flood is beautifully filmed, with a miniature set and real water to flush the buildings out. Actors interact with real water and real household junk floating violently. Far away moutains and trees are then CGI'd in, revealing the disaster's humongous scale. These are all the skills of a filmmaker who knows how to handle a low budget: only $45 million. Furthermore, Bayona throws in shots that are meant to show the flood's catastrophic effect, but he slows down the frame and throws in heavy saturation and lighting to reveal something artistic within something destructive.

For sure, the entire film is very hard to watch, for it is probably the most frightening disaster film I have ever seen, and this is because the film efficiently uses the family members' perspectives to show each realistic aspect of the event. In a way, there are three main characters in this film: Maria, Lucas, and Henry. All three actors give Oscar-worthy performances, and each of their characters brings something new to the table. 

For Maria and Lucas, Watts and Holland both give the audience the experience of being caught in the water, being hit by floating wood, avoiding a floating car. In addition, Holland gives us the experience of being in a hospital, seeing all kinds of injuries, patients, and people looking for their family members. I shall say this now, the Academy needs to bring back their category for Best Child Actor, because newcomer Holland deserves every bit of an award. As for McGregor, he brings the struggle and lost cause of finding lost loved ones to life. Moments where he wanders aimlessly in the night, hopelessly shouting names into the dark -- emotionally tragic. There is also a scene with a phone where you would really want to give him an Oscar.

If I can choose one word to describe The Impossible, it would be "realistic." Not counting the actual disaster scenes, the hospital scenes are filmed with great accuracy and precision. Hallways are flooded with people -- they can be injured or they can be well-clothed looking for someone. Every nurse and doctor is busy with something. Random Thai people wander along the road with bodies at the back of their truck, dead or struggling to be alive. Posters and name rosters are pasted over walls for people to see if their loved ones are found. Body bags are lined up on the floor. The entire atmosphere of this film is chilling, traumatic, and very mournful.

Inevitably, for a film like The Impossible, the script is not as compelling or original as the actual subject or execution. Fortunately, though, the film is one of the rare few that do not need the most excellent writing. The way the filmmakers carried this film is very heartfelt and sincere, and the film did exactly what it needed to do. Becoming one with the family, we the audience will soon find ourselves crying when one finds another loved one. This is an amazing tender story about a family's strength.

In conclusion, The Impossible is the best disaster film I have ever seen, thanks to a very visonary director, lifelike acting, and very faithful attention to historic detail. I do believe the film will be very very difficult for any survivors to watch, but when it comes down to adapting one of the worst disasters in history, The Impossible plays it like a part realistic time-machine part emotional family determination story. And Director Bayona plays the movie like a majestic instrument.


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