NAOMI WATTS EWAN MCGREGOR TOM HOLLAND
There are few trailers that can spawn the type of emotional response that J.A. Bayona’s The Impossible did when it was released over the summer. If you saw Bayona’s previous film The Orphanage, then you are already aware of his filmmaking talent. Before we see any visuals on screen, the opening credits emphasize that this is a true story and I think that is the most important thing to remember while watching The Impossible. Bayona’s goal in delivering this extraordinary film is to capture just a small glimpse of the horror that ensues when natural devastation occurs like the one in Thailand, portrayed here. The Impossible is one of those films that, you won’t soon forget because anyone has put themselves in the shoes of these people and ask yourself what would you do.
Spending their Christmas family vacation in Thaio Lak, Thailand, The Bennett family is completely devastated when the tsunami changes their lives forever the day after Christmas in 2004. Maria and her teenage son Lucas (Holland) are separated from Henry (McGregor) and the two younger boys. Maria, pushed underwear and slammed by large debris tearing into her skin, manages to surface and spot Lucas screaming for help as he floats away. Once they reach each other and Lucas sees just how badly his mother is injured, he tries to get her to safety and realizes the he may never see the rest of his family again.
“Nothing is more powerful than the human spirit,” the trailer says. Looking at one family’s struggle reminds us as the viewer, safe in our chair, that this is just one of the likely thousands of stories of survivors, not to mention those that perished. Early in the film Lucas is trembling in the water and as he looks at his mother for reassurance, he desperately asks “Is it over?”. There are so many heartbreaking moments in the film, but watching parents unable to comfort their terrified children is personified by this gut wrenching script. One of the many difficult moments to watch is from Lucas’ perspective when he sees the extent of his mother’s injuries and he turns away and says “I can’t see you like this.” The young actor does an incredible job with this role.
At a few points in the film, Bayona ends a scene and zooms as wide as possible to remind the viewer of perspective as we watch The Bennett family. Watts (21 Grams, The Painted Veil) really delivers an unforgettable a performance that might not land her a much deserved second Oscar nomination, but will be unforgettable in her body of work. The score by Fernando Velazquez is pitch perfect when needed, yet otherwise silence is used to convey how alone and desperate these characters are. McGregor doesn’t have as much screen time as Watts but also delivers a moving and compelling performance, especially in the cell phone scene. The Impossible redefines what a real “family film” is and sets the new standard for devastation films.
Final Thought – The type of film that grabs you and won’t let go, an unforgettable cinematic experience.
By: Dustin Chase W.
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
Whoever came up with the name of this film, The Impossible, is a genius at capturing all the different connotations it has; for instance, impossible for such a storm to occur; impossible to find loved ones who have been scattered every which way by its force, and impossible that anyone could live through it, given that it took away over 110,000 people. With the sweeping scenes of the roiling ocean and gigantic waves, Juan Antonio Bayona, the director, takes the viewer right to the scene to be a part of the action. Thrilling it is not; it is so relentlessly terrifying the viewer is pulled right into the throes of chaos alongside the characters.
The story, focusing on a British family (in reality it was a Spanish family) who planned to spend their Christmas vacation in Thailand, is probably one of the best ways to capture all the ramifications of such a horrendous event. The actors Naomi Watts as Maria, the mother; Ewan McGregor as Henry, the father; and Tom Holland as Lucas, their oldest son, are largely responsible for helping us see exactly what this family endured. They show all the pain, bewilderment, fear, and frustration that people go through in such circumstances, and consequently we experience a small dose of the same in watching them.
In the beginning of the film, the family is presented like many families with similar concerns, interests, and aspirations. We get to know a little about them, which has a great impact on us when the storm comes and begins to toss them around. For a long time, we only know about two of the five, and we are not sure one of them will survive. The rescue of mother and son is arduous, especially for her, and it is something to see young Lucas grow up in a matter of hours.
This is a fine film for getting some sense of what it would be like to be in a disaster and to feel more compassion for those unfortunate enough to be caught up in one. Since we are all at some risk of a disaster, it would behoove us to sit with our families and map out a plan for ways to contact one another in case of separation, and learn/review some basic survival skills. Grade: A