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Published December 12th 2012
You will be swept away by this movie
Often disaster movies are based on plausible but unlikely scenarios such as Independence Day, Contagion or The Day After Tomorrow.
But in The Impossible the disaster is all too frighteningly close to home. It is like the Psycho shower scene - all the more terrifying in its familiarity - who hasn't taken a shower, and more importantly in regards to this movie, who hasn't sat on a beach looking out to sea.
The 2004 Boxing Day tsunami killed 230,000 people across 14 countries. Loved ones were torn asunder, families whose only mistake was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time were set upon by Mother Nature in all her vengeful fury.
Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage) The Impossible is based on on a true story of one family's harrowing story of survival.
Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor star as the parents of three young sons. The movie begins with the calm before the storm -- of a family worrying about normal things, like whether their teen should drink Coke and whether they left the house alarm on before leaving for their flight to Thailand.
They arrive in paradise but tension grows because the audience knows what is coming. For example, when the family are upgraded from a third floor room to a beach-side bungalow, you can almost hear the audience en masse thinking " Change! Take the third floor. It's higher."
There are lingering shots of the glass like sea. Rather like in the Jaws movies, where the audience knows that below the still water, something dangerous is about to surface.
We watch the family spending time in their idyllic location relaxing, playing and bonding.
Then the tsunami hits and they are whirled into the depths fighting for air, fighting to surface - then fighting to find each other in the ensuing bedlam.
For when a disaster of this magnitude hits, as has been shown even more recently in First World countries, the infrastructures (the roads, the hospitals) simply cannot cope.
The first half of this film is riveting because of this rising tension and then the powerful realism of the tsunami. The movie is worth seeing alone just for this.
They say you had to be there to know just how horrific it was and this film carries you there. There was no way to outrun or dive under a wave of this magnitude.
The underwater scenes are perhaps some of the most powerful. It wasn't just the water, but the debris - uprooted tree, bodies of cars and sheets of broken glass.
Naomi Watts gives an amazing performance in her ability to convey the horrendous physical pain her character, Maria, endures.
The first half of the movie is superior to the second because this is when most of the action occurs. The rest of the movie is the aftermath.
Director Juan Antonio Bayona tries to maintain the tension in the second half as the family tries to reunite with one another., but as an audience member, I tended to lose a little patience here. One could imagine viewing the script and seeing only the words
"Lucas " and so on down the page.
This desperately calling out for lost family members happened in reality, but as dialogue goes it isn't particularly effective on film.
By this time, what had been appropriate disaster movie music, by Fernando Velazquez, also ramps up and becomes far too intense for the inaction occurring on the screen.
Thailand was a mess, bodies everywhere, the injured needing treatment and a lack of telecommunications.
But as an audience we sit there and know that in the end people did get it together. Order was restored.
This movie is worth seeing, particularly for the first half, but be aware that the second half dips and fades not unlike a wave with a spent force heading back out to sea.