The Impossible film review (Frank’s Take).

The genre of the disaster film has always maintained a sense of destructive visual surrealism, penetrating action sequences, roguish intrigue and the occasional investment of emotional solace. Some of these kinds of wreckage movies manage to instill elements of camp, carousing sentiment and the excess of cautionary fate as well. Still, the cinematic aura of the majority of disaster films is never quite able to systematically convey the psychological and sensational complete package of terror and tenderness to balance its frenzied forethought.

In filmmaker Juan Antonio Bayona’s ‘The Orphanage’ rousing natural causes actioner ‘The Impossible’, the stakes for high octane drama is pleasantly accompanied by the humanistic form of devastation in the low key moments of a family’s mental struggles for survival and dependency. ‘The Impossible’ works its morbid magic based on startling sound performances, the feeling of overwhelming despair and the urgency of a seemingly tropical paradise gone astray by nature’s unpredictable and uncontrollable forces of carnage.

Ewan McGregor ensures his weary boys that it is never too IMPOSSIBLE to overcome the devastation in director Juan Antonio Bayona's affecting tsunami saga.
Ewan McGregor ensures his weary boys that it is never too IMPOSSIBLE to overcome the devastation in director Juan Antonio Bayona’s affecting tsunami saga.

Finally, Bayona’s tsunami saga is a key sample of a thinking man’s disaster film that dares to incorporate the realistic resonance of the isolated personalized angst with the overblown and shocking taste of the action-packed heft and resiliency. Screenwriter Sergio G. Sanchez paints a percolating and poignant picture of anxiety through separation, disillusionment, frustration and outrage that threatens the idyllic Thai-based surroundings.

Remarkably, ‘The Impossible’ avoids the clichéd tendencies of a disaster flick in that the small subtleties of everyday existence (abbreviated and hasty cellphone conversations, disappearance of fresh water, lost communication, etc) is as much essential as the big picture of deterioration with monstrous, sweeping stormy waves and roaring winds that knock down structured buildings as if they were vulnerable dominoes. Armed with notable scope and laced with a human tragic aftermath, ‘The Impossible’ soars in both traumatic and triumphant spirit.

Although based on the real life account of a Spanish family’s erratic confrontation with the 2004 tsunami that split their domesticated union, ‘The Impossible’ focuses on a British clan visiting Thailand for a Christmas getaway at their comfy Thai beachfront resort. Close knit and content, physician Maria (Naomi Watts) and her brood are saddled in what amounts to be a tranquil treat of recreational stability. Her husband Henry (Ewan McGregor) has his mind on his job in Tokyo but Maria tries to ease his worries for him to relax. The couple is joined by their adolescent sons Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast).

As the feel-good Yuletide cheer is celebrated, Maria and the boys or anyone else for that matter enjoying the leisurely housing of their posh settings are unaware as to what is about to strike, a tremendously ominous Boxing Day tsunami looming as it gradually approaches the beachfront resort in a thunderous fashion. The presence of this deadly occurrence is defined by the perilous trembles, collapsing palm trees, massive wayward winds and finally the eye-opening sight of the majestic walls of water about to drench the exposed carefree lives of the beachfront patrons. In a flash, the heavenly comforts of seasonal serenity is replaced by the hellish reality of nature’s fatalistic fury.

The horrific and heart-pounding happenings are showcased graphically as the notorious tsunami makes its treacherous mark on the Thai people and foreigners alike as seen with the nasty brown-stained waters overturning cars, crippling houses, producing drowned human corpses and dispersing soil and sewage at alarming rates. Specifically, the battle for confronting this epic-sized disaster will be a constant challenge for Maria and Lucas in particular.

Thankfully, the seriously injured Maria — battered bones and bloodied body — is able to connect with her eldest son Lucas who is instrumental in rescuing his ailing mother and getting her to safety. Soon, the mother/son tandem will relocate to the local hospital where Maria reminds Lucas how much he is needed to help ease the suffering of others sharing their same mountainous bouts of peril. In the meantime, Henry and the other two boys are on a quest to reunite with Maria and Lucas as the continued nightmare unfolds in drastic uncertainty.

One may find ‘The Impossible’ excessively teary-eyed in its overdramatic skin as the mawkish meltdown is poured on thick. Nevertheless, the pathos is warranted as the film’s residue of sadness, shock and cynicism is presented sufficiently within the context of the inhumane storm that ruined precious lives. In particular, Holland’s Lucas anchors the movie with astounding efficiency as the small wonder is asked to act as the main catalyst for the pressure cooking astronomical event that would make most emergency-designed federal agencies scratching their heads in disbelief. Watts is very moving as the wounded wife and mother carrying the strife and guilt of what has become of her splintered family while hanging on for dear life. McGregor and the other two child actors, Joslin and Pendergast, are convincingly plagued with their sense of bewilderment and skepticism.

Compelling and oozing with conflict and complexity, ‘The Impossible’ is a heartfelt horror show worth its weight in reflective, ghoulish gold.

The Impossible (Summit Distribution)

1 hr. 45 mins.

Starring: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast and Geraldine Chaplin

Directed by: Juan Antonio Bayona

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Genre: Drama/Action & Adventure/Disaster Thriller

Critic’s Rating: *** stars out of 4 stars.


Frank Ochieng has contributed film reviews to SF Crowsnest off and on since 2003. He has been published in other various movie site venues throughout the years. Ochieng has been part of The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and had written film reviews for The Boston Banner newspaper (USA) and frequently is a media/entertainment panelist on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 AM on "The Jordan Rich Show" in Boston, Massachusetts/USA.

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