Finally, someone has made a disaster movie that actually feels like an actual disaster. Too many times when a catastrophe happens on-screen. It’s treated like an amusement park ride. Yes there are some surprises and scares along the way but it all feels much too safe. Movies like “Twister“, and “2012” for example have these moments where horrible weather rips through these towns but none of the characters appear to be in any real danger. “The Impossible” treats these moments of utter destruction like a slasher movie. The tsunami depicted in this is like a giant serial killer and the debris are his weapons. There are some harsh and disturbing moments of graphic weather, but they make you feel for these characters in ways I have never seen before. Calling this a horror movie makes sense because director J.A. Bayona also helmed “The Orphanage” as well.
Based on a real life story, a typical family on vacation in Thailand are suddenly separated from each other when a massive tsunami rips through their resort without any warning. It’s hard to describe these moments without making it sound like a fun ride, but trust me when I say that there were moments that made me gasp in fear. When Maria(Naomi Watts) comes to, she has massive cuts all over her body and can barely walk. Hanging onto a broken tree stump she notices her son Lucas(Tom Holland) and they both find their way onto dry land. Maria has lost a lot of blood and is taking to a hospital where things begin to turn grim for her. Meanwhile Henry(Ewan McGregor) and their two sons Thomas(Samuel Joslin) and Simon(Oaklee Oendergast) join a few refugees and begin searching all over the land for their families.
This was an amazing movie that should have received more Oscar love then just nominating Naomi Watts for best actress. Don’t get me wrong,she is great in this and I believed everything her character did. There were just many other people who should have been nominated as well. Tom Holland as the oldest son Lucas was an amazing discovery. Having only been on stage as “Billy Elliot“, Tom’s performance in this never feels like he is acting. It feels like he was actually there witnessing all the horrors and sometimes joy of this experience. One of the best moments come when he takes a walk around the hospital and is stopped by a man looking for his son. While he begins his search, others come to him and ask for help. The scene ends with a heartfelt reunion between father and son. There are a few other moments that do tug on the old heart string, but it never once feels forced. It all makes sense within the context of the story. The new zombie flick “World War Z” could borrow some ideas on how to develop characters in a disaster, but something tells me they will end up going the amusement park route instead. Nothing wrong with that because it’s not trying to take itself seriously like this one does. I would also give this one high praise for the visual effects. Yes it was all done with computer graphics but it stayed true to what that experience would have felt like and that is utter terror.
“The Impossible” does take some liberties with the ethnicity of these characters. Especially when you see a real life photo of the actual family at the end. I really had no problems because this was approved by the victims themselves and it remained very much a Spanish production. Changing the race of these characters and making it into an English language feature may help get more people into seeing it that maybe haven’t thought of it before. Let’s not forget most foreign movies don’t do so well with main stream audiences. So if a few things had to be fabricated to help this story get shown to as many people as possible, it’s a good thing. I just wish I would have seen this one sooner because it would have easily been placed as one of my top ten films of 2012.
The Good: Wonderful performances from the cast and one of the most intense disaster sequences put on film.
The Bad: The changes of ethnics between the real life family and the ones portrayed on screen.
The Ugly: The moment near the end when you see what Naomi Watt’s character goes through when the Tsunami hits
Overall: 9.3 out of 10.