The Impossible * * * *

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Director: Juan Antonio Bayona.
Screenplay: Sergio G. Sanchez.
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast, Marta Etura, Sönke Möhring, Johan Sundberg, Jan Roland Sundberg, Geraldine Chaplin.

One of the very best of recent horror movies was “The Orphanage“, released in 2007. As part of it’s marketing campaign it was executive produced by the familiar name of Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth“). Of course, del Toro wasn’t the creative mind behind the film – little known, Spanish director, Juan Antonio Bayona was. With this follow-up Bayona tackles an altogether different horror in the shape of one the world’s worst natural disasters: that of the Pacific Basin Tsunami of 2004.

Maria (Naomi Watts) and Henry (Ewan McGregor) are a British couple who takes their three sons on a Christmas family holiday to Thailand. Their idyllic setting is soon torn apart when a powerful and deadly tsunami rips through the beach resort. Maria and the eldest son Lucas (Tom Holland) manage to struggle to safety but Henry and the younger boys are separated, leaving them fighting for survival and unaware of each others’ fate.

Bayona starts his film off gently, as he introduces the quaint British family going about their holiday with love and enthusiasm. He takes little time in establishing his characters but takes enough to convey them as a strong unit. When they are separated by the sheer destructive force of the Tsunami, Bayona establishes his skill and deft handling of the disaster in all it’s devastating force. It’s entirely believable and absolutely awe-inspiring as man made structures and natural habitats are swept aside like playthings. On top of this, he gives us a turbulent, first-person point of view of the confusion whilst being churned around in this tidal wave. It’s a cinematic achievement that’s nothing less than impressive. From here, it progresses into a survival story as the separated family strive to find one another and it’s at this point that the film slows down and gets in touch with it’s emotional core. I was actually surprised by it’s level of emotion but that’s not to say that I didn’t like it. It worked primarily because we can identify with these suffering individuals. This is a natural disaster that affected many throughout the world and the loss was practically incalculable. As a result, the film becomes a bit of a tearjerker and some may even claim manipulatively so. I was so unprepared that at several points, I was wondering why I had a lump in my throat and why it didn’t seem to be going away either. Quite simply, the film’s emotional power captured me and refused to let go. Of course, to make this believable, you have to look at the cast members. Each and every one of them were superb; Naomi Watts has been Oscar nominated for her turn but Ewan McGregor can count himself very unlucky not to receive similar recognition. They both deliver outstandingly strong work. Special mention must also go to Tom Holland as the eldest son, who actually carries a large amount of the film of his young shoulders. We could be witnessing the arrival of a very fine actor here. Ultimately, it’s through these performers that we invest ourselves into this tragedy. Surprisingly, the only film that I’m aware of that has touched upon this disaster is Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter” but it didn’t deal with it to the extent and technical ability that this does.

It’s not often we get such an impressive piece of work that, so easily, tugs on the heartstrings. In fact, the last time I felt this was with Juan Antonio Bayona’s aforementioned “The Orphanage” but to capture such a disaster in all it’s ferocity, reaffirms that the impossible is not so hard to believe in contemporary cinema any more.

Mark Walker

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46 Responses to “The Impossible * * * *”

  1. I’m glad you liked the movie. I really did. I thought it was incredibly well done both narratively and visually. With the exception of one really crappy scene close to the end of the picture, the movie stays away from the normal contrivances that drive me crazy. And you said it – the performances are spot on!

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    • Yeah, it was a good one bro. I seen it ages ago but that’s me just getting round to writing it up. There were the odd contrivances (especially the end) but overall it was great film.

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      • And I am growing more and more to appreciate Naomi Watts. Honestly I once thought she was an overrated actress. But when she picks the right material she can be really good. That’s the case here.

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      • I have to say, I’ve always been convinced by her. Ever since I seen her in “Mulholland Drive”. I’ve noticed over the years and in many roles that she can emote more convincingly than most actresses. She can turn it on like a tap, man.

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  2. Nice.

    Glad you regard this one highly Mark, just like you, this one really hit me. Nice, very nice to see you give it such high marks. Awesome man.

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  3. Nice review, Mark! It’s a really difficult film to watch, that’s for sure. Watching The Impossible was a very emotional experience. I would have liked to see a little more of the impact the disaster had on the Thai community but I suppose you can have it all in one film! Great write up 🙂

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    • Thanks Georgina. I totally agree on the lack of attention the Thai locals got but like you say, you can’t have it all. The story was still good enough the convey the devastation that the tsunami caused. I was completely gripped.

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  4. One of the notables in 2012 for me. Fine review, Mark.

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  5. Happy to see you also really liked this movie. It was a great start of the movie year for me.

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  6. Good one, my main man!

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  7. Great review, it certainly looks like an emotional film.

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  8. I haven’t seen this but I’m looking forward to it. Nothing but praise for it so far. Great review as always!

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  9. ray brayne Says:

    Powerful, difficult film. Difficult because it was gut wrenching to watch being swept away by this disaster. Tried to think of other films like it but there’s not much. Thought of “Twister” but that’s way too Hollywood.
    The balance in the film was just right, fast moving storm, long painful aftermath. The scene was like a Boschian nightmare, bodies in trees, under houses. I was screaming at the characters on screen looking for their loved ones, “Can’t you see, are you blind?” Worse than a snowball’s chance to find anything.
    The hardest part was late in the film when Maria has a flashback and relives the ordeal. Very painful. As much as I liked the film I wouldn’t want to see it again, ever. Way too damaging to the nervous system. When you think about it, these people were the lucky ones, how awful to have been unlucky!
    Well written review, as always Mark!

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    • It was certainly gut wrenching at times Ray. I wasn’t prepared for how powerful it turned out to be. It had me wincing one moment and welling-up the next. A very well handled film that depicts one of the great survival stories. Thanks Ray.

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  10. I need to see this in theaters, as I heard the disaster scene is impressive on the big screen with sound. Good review too. Makes me want to really get my act together and see it. So much to watch before Feb 24, though!!

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    • It would definitely be wise to see it on the big screen Nick. The tsunami scenes are breathtaking. I know what you mean by trying to squeeze in lots of films before the oscars. I’m in the same boat. Too much and too little time. Cheers man.

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  11. Very well-written review, you covered most of the things that made me love this movie. I had almost forgotten about the tsunami, but that’s certainly not the case now. It’s definitely one I don’t think I’d be able to see again any time soon but I was really happy to see Watts at least get an oscar nod

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  12. Good review Mark. The cast is what saves the day for this flick, although that Tsunami scene did kick some fine ass.

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  13. Nice review, missed this one with all the other stuff out but leaked my interest again, thanks. Did a share on twitter too for you bud.

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    • It’s a great film Kevin. Worth seeing in the cinema but I know how it is keeping on top of every film when theres so many to see. Hope you get a chance soon. Thanks for the twitter share as well man. 🙂

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  14. Peaked – I phone ;/

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  15. The Impossible was on my maybe watch list, but after so many people have given it positive reviews, I think it has snuck on to my must watch list. I was unsure as I don’t really like Watts, but I’ll give it a go this week!

    Great review!

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    • Yeah, I’d definitely give it a go. It’s a great film and rightfully receiving positive reviews. Watts is really good in it, as is McGregor. I’ll keep my out for a review from you. Hope you like it. Thanks Jennifer.

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  16. Great review, Mark. I loved this film. It’s one of the best of 2012 in my opinion. I agree that it can be a tad manipulative (particularly the score) but I still loved it and couldn’t help but be moved. I cried through the whole damn movie! Great acting as well!

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    • Cheers Fernando. It was certainly one for the heartstrings. Great film and the performances were indeed, outstanding. I was surprised by its level of emotion. I was expecting more of a disaster movie.

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  17. We’re on the same page with this one Mark, both gave it 4. Our opening paragraphs are even very similar. Great minds and all that! It was a proper punch in the stomach this one, particularly the first half. I thought it lost its way a little in the second half and become a little manipulative but it was still proof that a disaster movie doesn’t have to be all special effects all the time.

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    • Great minds indeed Chris. Can’t remember if I stopped by yours or not. I’ll have a look a little later on when I get a chance. Yeah, you said it man. Proof that disaster movies can consist of something else. At times it was a little manipulative but still thoroughly engaging. I really liked it.

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  18. Can’t watch it because I will cry. That’s a silly reason for not watching a movie I know but I just don’t do that crying thing. 😉 Excellent review though!

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  19. Sorry I missed this review Mark. I don’t think I could handle this film on the big screen, I’ll probably be bawling uncontrollably. My home country was greatly affected by the tsunami, so it’ll hit too close to home for me. Great review Mark, I’ll be renting this for sure.

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    • It’s a great film Ruth. I was in Thailand myself many years ago and it affected me so, yeah, I’d imagine you’ll feel it even more so. Tragic events indeed and very well captured here.

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  20. this film made me forget about Eastwood’s horrible Hereafter. What a movie The Impossible is! and the performances…wow. a moving film respectfully done.

    nice review.

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  21. An impressive film – Tom Holland was fantastic and he makes my lineup. Nice review!

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  22. What a wonderful take on it – and as you know, I’m on the same page. I was as impressed by you of how they managed to give you a real sense of what it must have been like to be there – even more impressive when you realize it’s done with models and water tanks! Also the acting is great and Tom Holland indeed carries a lot of the movie on his young shoulders. If I had to point out just one main character, it would be him.

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    • Thanks Jessica. Our opinions meet again 😉
      I didn’t know that about the models and water tanks, though. I did wonder how it was done and suspected that but it’s good to get the proof. Young Holland was indeed superb. Watts and McGregor also put in some fine work. It was a great film and one that I was surprised with, in regards to it’s human drama approach. I expected more of a disaster type angle.

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