Sunday, 20 January 2013


The Impossible [Review]

Opinion: B-

By Jason Lin

Naomi Watts brings stirring emotions back to the heart breaking tragedy as she recounts a family's encounter during the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. Director Juan Antonio Bayona's film is an engrossing journey back to the critical days and replicates the first hand experience fairly well. Balancing between cruel scenarios and rare miracles, the film tries to incite tears but succeeds mostly in inducing dense emotions.

Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their three sons begin their winter vacation in Thailand, looking forward to a few days in tropical paradise. But on the morning of December 26th, as the family relaxes around the pool after their Christmas festivities the night before, a terrifying roar rises up from the center of the earth. As Maria freezes in fear, a huge wall of black water races across the hotel grounds toward her. Based on a true story, THE IMPOSSIBLE is the unforgettable account of a family caught, with tens of thousands of strangers, in the mayhem of one of the worst natural catastrophes of our time. But the true-life terror is tempered by the unexpected displays of compassion, courage and simple kindness that Maria and her family encounter during the darkest hours of their lives. Both epic and intimate, devastating and uplifting, THE IMPOSSIBLE is a journey to the core of the human heart.

Pain is possibly the most powerful element that can be used to summarise the devastating ordeal. Casting Watts as the lead mother who struggles to put herself and her family members together cannot be any better to depict pain. She appears to exercise very plausible pain reactions and channels other emotions seamlessly at the same time. Even when the film gets her bedridden, she's still reaching out to the audience's heart. It is thus a difficult task for anyone not to identify and relate to her unfortunate situation, especially after her nominations for the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards.

While this is a plus point for the film, the other heart breaking element derives largely from the CG visual effects (portraying the wall of seawater destructing everything in its path) and the sight of indecent corpses. Most of the surviving victims have little roles to play as the script intends for the family to narrate their bitter memories.

Devising a close reenactment of how a victim feels between the moment of wave impact and their eventual surfacing isn't an easy task. Bayona's team manages this aspect well with kinetic visuals and implicative sound. The details may have well been provided by the actual persons who went through the horrific event.

An interesting observation is how the film withholds a key sequence gap during the first plot point (tsunami impact) and saves it for a synergetic visualisation towards the end. While heightening the reactions, it also serves as a mode for the audience to enjoy a proper closure to the story.

Amidst harsh conditions and the relentless act of nature, it is almost impossible to imagine perfect miracles taking place. While it may be heartwarming and inspirational, it somewhat disturbingly undermines the hellish abyss that several other victims went through. Everything is feeble and fragile as Mother Nature claims away everything from the victims and the natives, even food and water is a miracle for some. It is noticed that thirst and hunger doesn't seem to affect the family critically.

Perhaps it is just a sadistic desire of this opinion to witness dark sorrows thriving in calamity, but isn't that more appropriate for a film that explores The Impossible?


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