We’ve seen it cinema before. Aliens have destroyed the world many times over, global warming stranded Jake Gyllenhaal in a New York library, and Bill Paxton and Hellen Hunt chased down tornadoes. Any disaster film scenario has been explored multiple times to varying degrees of success. But with Juan Antonio Bayona’s film “The Impossible,” never has a film been so intimate about such tragic nature.
Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor play Henry and Maria, a loving couple with three young sons celebrating Christmas in Thailand in 2004. Everything is idyll until a tsunami destroys the entire resort and much of the region. With the family of five separated, they struggle to find each other in the aftermath.
Some films require a more in-depth synopsis, but not “The Impossible.” You know exactly what the story is, and despite its simplicity, it’s never short of engaging. Watts and McGregor are so committed to their roles that we instantly sympathize and relate to the characters. This is critical since the tsunami comes quickly in the film. Seeing them search for each other, and their sons, is so uplifting and reassuring because we accept their characters early on.
The film’s peak cinematically is the actual destruction of the resort, but instead of resting on that as the climax, the script pushes forward exploring the love of a family separated. We see such a wide range of character traits and developments that the movie will likely drive you to tears. I heard gasps from the audience throughout as we saw this family beat up and then deeply moved whenever a reunion occurred. A tearjerker in the best way, “The Impossible” holds your attention long after the credits. 3.5 out of 5 stars
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