Review: THE IMPOSSIBLE (2012) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Review: THE IMPOSSIBLE (2012)


Word of warning: this is not a Roland Emmerich-kind of disaster movie (e.g. 2004's THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW and 2009's 2012) where larger-than-life special effects matters the most. Instead, THE IMPOSSIBLE is a rarity -- Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona (2007's THE ORPHANAGE) has created an emotionally-driven disaster movie that successfully captures the devastating effect of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami as well as the aftermath of how a significant family struggles to stay alive. It's a remarkable piece of filmmaking, and certainly not for the squeamish.

The title is actually refers to the real-life Belon family, in which they vacationed in Thailand on December 2004 and miraculously survived one of the deadliest tsunamis in the history. In this movie, we are introduced to British-born businessman Henry Bennett (Ewan McGregor) and his doctor wife, Maria (Naomi Watts) along with their three boys, Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast). They arrive at a beautiful beach resort in Khao, Thailand on Christmas Eve. They spend wonderful times together, and things are going great on Christmas Day as well. But on the fateful December 26, they are surprised to discover a sudden Indian Ocean tsunami approaches without warning when they are lounging by the pool. Nevertheless the raging tsunami hits everything in its path and thus separating the family apart.

After the tsunami subsides, Maria and her oldest son Lucas are trying to find their way to a safety place before they gradually getting help by local villagers and send to a nearest hospital. Meanwhile, Henry is together with Thomas and Simon somewhere within the ruins of the beach resort.

With a seamless mix of special effects and real water surges created in a water tank in Spain, the particular 10-minute reconstruction of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami sequence is vividly realized with such captivating effect it truly makes my heart pound. Not only that, the effect feels so alarmingly real as if you are there witnessing the harrowing event. It is no doubt the most convincing tsunami effect I've ever seen. A special credit goes to Bayona who is certainly has a deft touch handling such tremendous visual impact.

Other than that, Bayona is also adept on tugging our heartstrings. Blessed with a powerful script by Sergio G. Sanchez, its everlasting theme of family survival is well-handled here, even though the emotional values are tend to be amplified for the sake of dramatic purpose. Unlike most disaster movie, Sanchez made a smart decision not to focus on too many subplots with multiple characters from all angle. Instead, he strips down to the utmost important core to keep us focused on certain individuals. The result is somewhat intensely personal as we follow the Bennett family from start to finish.

The cast are similarly first-rate. Naomi Watts is as excellent as always while Ewan McGregor gives one of his best performances in recent years. His scene involving a phone call back home is certainly heartbreaking. In his live-action big screen debut, Tom Holland delivers a remarkable performance as Lucas.

Technical credits are all pitch-perfect, except for Fernando Velazquez's score which tends to get overwhelmed. Sound effects are meticulously detailed, especially the one involving the tsunami sequence.

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