As you might remember, one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to go to a matinée on Friday when there is a movie I want to see. Today was the first one. Since it is taking me FOREVER to finish my first book of the year, I thought I’d start doing short movie reviews for all the movies I go to see or this blog will go dark by February. (Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to review all the books for 2012 as I’m running out of stuff to write about.) So here goes!
The Impossible (starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor) tells the amazing true story about one family’s harrowing experiences during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that hit Southeast Asia (including Thailand where the movie takes place). The Bennett family (mom, dad and three boys) is at a gorgeous beach resort to celebrate the Christmas holidays when the tsunami hits, and the rest of the film shows their survival experience and their search to reunite their family in the face of impossible odds.
The tsunami footage was heart-stopping and terrifying, and the scenes of Maria and her oldest boy Lucas in the immediate aftermath as they struggle to get to each other were so full of tension and terror that I think I stopped breathing while watching. I don’t know how the filmmakers recreated the tsunami but it looks like actual footage. If it is special effects (which I guess it has to be), it was superbly done.
Naomi Watts is amazing. She conveys Maria’s strength, fear and incredible pain so realistically that it felt almost uncomfortable to watch. (There are some graphic scenes so beware). The actor who plays her son (Tom Holland) is brilliant too. I was moved to tears by their experience and cannot imagine myself in the same position. Ewan McGregor is given less to do (his survival experience isn’t shown), and I had some real serious problems with some of the decisions he makes during the film. SPOILER ALERT: HIGHLIGHT TO READ: Seriously, would you let your two surviving kids go up to the mountains without you to go search for your wife and son who are most likely dead? I couldn’t imagine leaving my surviving kids (ages 7 and 5 no less!!) in a foreign country, by themselves, in a land that is in chaos. Keep them with you! I really struggled to understand his thinking here … I guess he was in shock but still. END SPOILER
I’m also curious exactly how the end scenes played out in real-life. It felt too “movie coincidental” for me to swallow, but perhaps the filmmakers needed to compress things for timing’s sake. Still, it took me out of the movie as I struggled with my disbelief. Also keep in mind that the movie is focused on this family’s struggle so it doesn’t really provide (except in brief glimpses) the full scope and nature of the devastation and the number of people affected. I’ve also read that the “Bennett” family was Westernized. (In real life, the family was named Alvarez and were from Spain. Given that the film was made by Spanish filmmakers and not Hollywood, I’m not sure why the decision to Westernize the family was made … perhaps to get a bigger audience?) Still, don’t let these things stop you from seeing an amazing true story of survival and resilience in the face of incomprehensible disaster. 4 out of 5 stars