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THE IMPOSSIBLE (2012)
The 2004 tsunami was one of the deadliest natural disasters on record. Because it occurred in the Christmas season and hit many resort area beaches its death toll of almost 250,000 was indiscriminate, taking not only South Asians but many visiting vacationers. People everywhere were affected by it. My own relatives who were then living in Thailand were destined that day to be on the beach, but, unknown to the rest of us, illness caused them to alter their plans. I personally heard from Thai acquaintances the story of nieces and nephews who excitedly ran to the shore to see the wondrous phenomenon of the receding ocean, only to be swamped by its return. Weeks later, flying over the Indonesian coastline, I could see with my own eyes just how far inland the wave had rushed, and the devastation it had wrought.
How do you frame such a catastrophe in human terms, and present a situation of pure chaos in a way that makes a compelling story? How do you tell such a tale in a way that respects both the lost and the survivors, many of whom suffered personal tragedies as well, and more of whom bore the guilt of survival? How does one story tell some of the many stories of that day? These were among the challenges that faced director Juan Antonio Bayona and screenwriter Sergio G. Sanchez when they decided to put an account of the 2004 tsunami on the screen. Their solution was to deal with one British family on vacation in Thailand from Japan, but their film uses that family as a catalyst to show the tsunami's awful effect not only on the tourist population but on the local people who suffered even more.
Both the film itself and the filmmakers have taken pains to say that this is a "true story," and they have aimed for the greatest possible authenticity in the circumstances. They have based themselves on detailed interviews with the family members and with other survivors, some of whom actually appear in the film. (For example, those who tell their tales to Ewan McGregor at the bus station are almost all actual survivors.) While footage of the tsunami strike itself was shot in a water tank at Alicante on the Spanish coast, and a couple of days filming of interiors took place in Spanish studios, the remainder of this picture was shot on location in Thailand using the real places of the story, such as the Orchid Beach Hotel in Phang Nga, and the actual hospital where much of the action occurs.
The actual Thai locations and the many Thai actors keep the production values superb, and give this film an authenticity it would not otherwise have. So of course do the survivors who take part, whose emotions are sometimes all too real. Many video shots exist of the tsunami hitting the Asian beaches, but no one who was not there can have any real idea of what it must have been like to have been caught up by its waters. Bayona has chosen to focus not so much on the massive power of the tidal wave itself but on the sheer terror and disorientation it must have created for those submerged in it, and upon the human toll it took. But his scenes of its striking are horrific enough to give some sense of its magnitude, even on the screen. Nor does he pull his punches in some of the grisly scenes that follow. The impressive results that display both the striking wave and its terrible aftermath owe much to production designer Eugenio Caballero.
The big names here are Ewan MacGregor as Henry and Naomi Watts as Maria, his doctor wife, while Geraldine Chaplin has a cameo role as a lady who comforts one of their sons on a starlit night. MacGregor and Watts seem to suit their parts, but in a sense they are playing predictable roles. They become a couple literally torn apart, a father having to search among the debris for the remainder of his family and a mother who for much of the picture hovers close to death. The family's three sons are played by Tom Holland (Lucas), Samuel Joslin (Thomas) and Oaklee Pendergast (Simon). The two younger boys are cute as well as being effective, but that is not really a word that suits Tom Holland. The young British actor displays a surprising maturity and delivers a wonderfully measured performance, reminiscent of a younger Daniel Radcliffe. Despite the bigger names involved, it is his portrayal of Lucas that carries the picture since he is the hub around whom events revolve as the individual stories unfold. That is a lot to ask of a young actor, but Holland delivers.
No one story can ever do justice to the events of that day and the days that followed. Nor can a story set in just one location ever capture just how wide-ranging were the tsunami's effects. How can you tell the story of what happened almost simultaneously in Indonesia and India, Myanmar and Malaysia, and eventually affected even the African coast. Thankfully, Bayona doesn't try. He focuses on the few, hoping that through them audiences will better understand the tale of the many. For such a story, The Impossible is perhaps a more than fitting title, but the film works and gives a view that is both visually impressive and dramatically moving.
The Impossible premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2012. It will open in Spain on October 11, and go into general release in North America in the last week of December.
Amazing effects and stunts, along with and solid performances balance
out some artistic lapses and ethical questions in this true story of
one family's experiences of the horrendous Tsunami that killed 300,000.
The downsides; there's something a little off-putting about choosing a white, privileged family as a focus, while at the same time showing almost exclusively other white people as suffering and afraid in a disaster that killed far more local people than tourists. The Thai's are certainly shown in a good light, kindly helping all these suffering whites, but even in the hospital, almost every face we see in a bed is a white one. That hint of odd racial insensitivity is also underlined by replacing the original family, who were Spanish and dark, and making them into a gorgeous blond English family, a telling choice in a 'true' story.
On a more general level, the film can feel manipulative, from the tear jerking score, to the multiple carefully framed "will they spot each other?" shots that feel like a horror film's self-conscious suspense fames, but that cinematic technique feels distractingly artificial in this more naturalistic setting.
There's no question it's exciting and at times quite moving, but I couldn't help thinking I might have felt even more deeply if it wasn't pushing so hard to control my emotions.
At first I did not think this movie was something I would like to see. I felt it would be one of those movies that once the disaster happened it would become dis-interesting and would be boring the second half of the movie. I am very happy I had the opportunity to see it. The only reason I did not give it a 10 was I thought the character build up was a little shallow. I would have liked to get know the family a little better before the disaster. Other than that I feel that the movie was fantastic. Once the inevitable happened the film kept my interest and was very compelling throughout. The special effects were realistic and not over done. I wish foreign movies like this would make a bigger release in the United States to show Hollywood how to make a movie especially a true story movie. I felt when I was watching this film that I was seeing it actually happening with no to very little exaggerations. That is where I feel Hollywood falls short and puts allot of drama in a film that really did not occur in the true event. If there were exaggerations in this movie they were seamless and not over done. If you have a chance to see this movie I feel it is "a must see movie" you will not be disappointed.
A film that captures real life the way J.A. Bayona captures it in his
newest film The Impossible is a rare occurrence in filmmaking. Not only
does he pay respect to the countless victims that were lost in the
devastating tragedy, he makes artistic choices and liberties only the
most seasoned directors can take. Starring Academy Award Nominee Naomi
Watts and Ewan McGregor, the film tells the TRUE story about a family
vacationing in Thailand when one of the worst natural disasters of our
time separates them.
In the opening credits of the film, Bayona tells the audience that the story is true, but what may bother viewers and critics is how coincidental and inflated the story can seem. If it weren't in fact true, the film would fail within the first few moments. It's the notion that this did occur that demonstrates and heightens the execution of Bayona and writer Sergio G. Sanchez so brilliantly. The Impossible is the most emotional and devastating picture seen since Paul Greengrass' United 93 (2006). In the first several minutes, I was already in tears. Letting up only for short breaths, I feel like I didn't stop crying the entire time. I was invested, full body and soul, riding among the victims in a frightening state of mind. I could only imagine myself there, terrifyingly so and with appreciation now that I wasn't. The brave and committed performance by Naomi Watts is the miracle of the film and possibly the entire year. Watts falls into the role of "Maria" with perfect precision and accuracy. As a person who's only been a father for a year-and-a-half, Watts puts me right in the moment of unimaginable fear and pain. An Oscar-caliber turn as I've ever witnessed. The entire first half of the film is shared with Tom Holland, a child actor that can only be described as well beyond his years. Holland is motivated and equally as afflicting as Watts. A performance like his can only lead to more roles for him in the future. Ewan McGregor, who unbeknownst to me as gone this long without receiving any type of Oscar attention is pure magic. He shows an effortless approach as Henry, a father desperate to find his family. If there's one poor criticism about the film it's the first half of the film, where Holland and Watts dominate, is so gut-wrenching and brilliant that when McGregor and his story enter the screen, it unfortunately just pales by comparison. McGregor isn't given the most of character development to chew through but it's still an admirable work.
Cinematographer Oscar Faura's orange and yellow camera work demands the utmost attention from the viewer, gaining a near first-person view of what could have been. It's a technical achievement of the highest levels. Fernando Velasquez's somber score will only build the tears even more as your catapulted through this reenactment of terror. J.A. Bayona's direction is simplistic but delivered with reverence. A fine directorial turn.
This is a film that must be experienced by all. As you lay in your cozy beds tonight, take your loved ones for granted as they walk by you, and breath the air you so blindly feel entitled to, think about if at one moment, one single moment, from now, it was all gone. The Impossible dared me to be a better human being, a notion not many films will or attempt to convey. I'll try to listen.
It's one of the best pictures of the year!
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It would be impossible to try and capture the widespread loss and
destruction of this horrible, devastating event. The scope was so large
and far too many people lost their lives to even attempt to portray on
film. Instead, director Juan Antonio Bayona and screenwriter Sergio G.
Sánchez focused smartly on the true story of one family's struggle for
survival amongst all that had happened on December 26th, 2004.
This allows the film to be much more intimate, and the audience is quickly able to connect with the Bennett family, starting simply with their arrival to Thailand. While the audience was filled with dread in anticipation of what was to come, the Bennetts were blissfully unaware and enjoying themselves over vacation. However, everything soon takes a terrifying turn as the tsunami hits their resort in a horrifyingly realistic manner, sweeping up people as they attempt to flee before it or protect themselves from its awesome power.
At this point, I, too, felt like I was drowning. The camera bobs in and out of darkness, in and out of the water, as the family's matriarch, Maria, struggles for breath. Then, clinging hopelessly onto a palm tree, she screams all too realistically for anyone who could possibly help her in a desperate, surprisingly shocking moment. It is at this point where she spots her son, Lucas, floating in the fierce waves, and I held my breath as the struggled for what seemed like an eternity to reunite in the water.
In a way, Lucas, brilliantly portrayed by newcomer Tom Holland, carries the film from this point forward. He takes on the role of protecting his stubborn yet badly injured mother, and in the process he's forced to mature far too quickly. During every moment, his emotions and facial expressions convey more than any words ever could, as she shies away from and is frightened by his mother's injuries and nudity, all the while attempting to deal with the scope of the pain and devastation.
However, it is his mother, Maria, whom the film truly centers around. Naomi Watts gives quite possibly her finest performances to date, portraying harrowing desperation, stubborn determination in the face of incredible pain and agony, and, ultimately, a sense of love and care despite her deteriorating state. True, she is bedridden for about half the film, but it is during this time where there are these small moments of tenderness and humility which undoubtedly makes Watts's performance one of the best of the year.
In fact, the entire cast was exceptional, including Ewan McGregor, the father desperately trying to put together his family again, and the two littlest sons, Thomas, played by Samuel Joslin, and Simon, played by Oaklee Pendergast, both of whose innocence prevented them from thoroughly capturing the extent of this tragic event. The story of these three is intertwined with that of Maria and Lucas, as they all struggle for survive amidst the destruction and reunite amidst the chaos.
Ultimately, this is a touching and heartwarming film, as the true kindness of humanity can be seen in this time of great loss. Yes, the tsunami is terrifying, the injuries gruesome and shockingly realistic, and the pain and suffering visible on just about everyone's faces. However, the Bennetts' story is a remarkable one of love, determination, and hope, and it simply cannot be missed.
Disaster films have an odd reputation, often merely dismissed as
popcorn fodder, so it's strange to have a film billed as such but to
put character and drama over spectacle. Then again, as it's based on a
true story, it's probably unfair to label 'The Impossible' as such a
movie because the plight of the characters is at its heart throughout
the entire duration. Perhaps this film is best described as a family
drama with elements of disaster, then.
The Boxing Day tsunami was one of those events that put our lives into perspective, and the film achieves the same feat. Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts play the parents of three children who decide to spend an exotic Christmas in Thailand. Suitcases are unpacked, presents are exchanged, but the sense of impending disaster is overwhelmingly unsettling. When the inevitable does happen, the following 15 minutes are intense, realistic and terrifying; an onslaught of terrific practical effects and incredible sound design. However, after that concentrated outburst, the drama shifts down a gear to a more intimate, personal level, which is no less frightful.
That is why this film shines; it's about the smaller picture. By focusing on the survival of this one family rather than the scale of the event itself, a better, and more human, representation of the disaster is displayed. The performances from the central cast are nothing short of spectacular, especially Tom Holland, who carries the film for a hefty chunk of the running time with a gravitas that many older actors would fail to achieve.
Many criticisms have been made in the press about the anglicisation of the story; in reality, the family was Spanish. To me, that seemed to be a decision to globalise this story to the maximum amount of people, a decision that was warranted in my eyes. Thus, the main issue with the film was the score to be unnecessarily overriding in certain scenes, adding an unwanted sentimentality to the film. The scenes which worked best were confrontational, uncompromising and, you guessed it, without a swelling orchestra. Nevertheless, this is a minor gripe considering that this is a film where tears are wholeheartedly justified.
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I watched The Impossible with a clear intention to remain a little emotionally detached. I knew from the trailer that a disaster was imminent from the word go, so I braced myself for impact and kept my fingers crossed that Ewan Mcgregor was going to give more than the lack luster performance that i feel like I've been growing accustomed to. Okay, so i was crying from about 10 minutes into the film. While McGregor is credible, although still not a return to form, the real performance here is from Naomi Watts. She is gripping to watch, and lends credibility to the rest of the cast as she watches the world fall apart around her. I winced, squirmed and spent many minutes forgetting to breathe. An emotional roller-coaster which, while somewhat lacking in depth in storyline, more than makes up for it with a strong edit. Great job with an average script.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Another of the many World Premieres showcasing at the Toronto International Film Festival with hopes of Oscar glory is, The Impossible, the true story of a family's struggle to reunite after being violently separated when the tsunami hit the beach of sun soaked Thailand in 2004. The film stars Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts as the two parents of three young boys that were vacationing in Thailand over Christmas when the tsunami devastated the country and shocked the world. With a prerequisite set-up of the main characters, the tsunami hits early in The Impossible and packs an incredible punch. As the wave crashes through the hotels pool area and sweeps away the five members of the family, we watch in terror as Maria (Watts) and Lucas (Tom Holland) struggle to stay above the raging water and within arms lengths of each other. Once the water settles, the badly injured Maria and Lucas begin a journey of survival without knowledge as to the fate of the missing three members of the family. Lucas is forced to mature beyond his years and assist in getting his mother to a hospital for immediate emergency attention and is the key to the more emotional scenes that conclude the film. The Impossible is only the second film made using new 3-D sound technology (the film is in 2-D) and the crashing and fast flowing water sequences can be heard, and almost felt, throughout the entire theatre. When not fully engrossed in our characters' plights and emotionally tied to their survival, we are thoroughly repulsed by the graphic scenes of bodily destruction that blood soak the screen. Director J.A. Bayona is no stranger to horrific make-up effects as he was the genius behind the camera for The Orphanage (2007) and he pulls no punches here. Some audience members were seen turning their heads unable to ingest the graphic nature of effects and few were even seen exiting while the scenes played out in long detail. Thanks to the trailers, we know (generally) how the movie concludes. But just like Ron Howard's masterful Apollo 13, J.A. Bayona still keeps us at the edge of our seats even with an ending that is both clear and true to the original story. The Impossible does have its shot at some Awards glory. Watts and McGregor pull off incredibly emotional and physical scenes and films that deal with real life tragedy and the human spirit that overcomes those tragedies usually find favour with award voters. But whether or not The Impossible gets any gold plated hardware it does not take away from the tiring and emotional journey that audiences will take with their characters. The Impossible is the best depiction yet of the Indian Ocean tsunami and the horrors that succeeded it. It is also one of the best movies we have seen so far this year. Packed with equal scenes of tearful drama and graphic horrors. And although the wave is the catalyst that propels the plot, the characters are so strong that the big wave that hits the resort will hardly be the thing you most remember.
On vacation at an exotic resort in Thailand, a family of 5 are torn
apart by a large tsunami that rips the island apart. The mother, played
by Naomi Watts and oldest of the three sons do their best to survive
while the father, played by Ewan McGregor, juggles between the safety
of his two boys and the search for his wife and missing son.
Director Juan Antonio Bayona vividly shares the shocking and yet, miraculous story of the Alvarez family. The cinematography when the tsunami sweeps in is nothing short of stunning and captivating. A glimpse of the sheer force and destruction behind this natural disaster will undoubtedly leave you breathless. Watts delivers a strong performance as does McGregor but the stand out here, besides the cinematography, is the brilliant and mature portrayal of the oldest son by young, Tom Holland.
An emotional tearjerker, The Impossible is a brilliant film, which will have you glued to the screen as you root against the odds while simultaneously fearing the worst. The fact that it's based on a true story is a testament of the human spirit and the bond of a family.
The Impossible is definitely one to watch.
The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami is brought to shockingly realistic life
in J. A. Bayona's ten minute sequence near the beginning of the
harrowing true-life survival tale, "The Impossible." With little to no
CGI and using mostly scale models and a giant water tank, Bayona throws
the viewers into the wave along with stars Naomi Watts (astonishing)
and young Tom Holland (revelatory as Watts' son). Told from the point
of view of a family on holiday in Thailand, the story makes for a
riveting family-centered emotional drama. The rest of the cast is
outstanding as well, and there's a strong humanist approach applied to
depicting this wide-spread multi-national disaster.
It might pull on the heartstrings a bit "too much" in some sequences, but the manipulation is apt in telling this real-life drama.
Overall - an unforgettable, draining but uplifting film experience.
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