Mark Metcalf
Moving Pictures

“The Impossible”

Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor deliver powerful performances in Juan Antonio Bayona's "The Impossible," opening Friday at the Oriental Theatre.

By - Jan 4th, 2013 04:00 am

In one way, The Impossible is a disaster film; it’s one more in a long line of films about both natural and man-made disasters. However, with the technology available to filmmakers today, so much realism can be brought to the disaster that in the hands of a skillful director, you can be brought very vividly into the horror of the action. That alone makes it a more enriching an experience than say, The Poseidon Adventure, and Juan Antonio Bayona is a very skillful director with the camera, with the action and with the actors.

What elevates The Impossible most of all is that the story is true. The people are real; they are alive today. They survived.

Experiencing the movie in a warm, dry, comfortable theater is one thing when it is just a movie. But knowing that it was real, that this family of three boys, their mother and father, actually experienced and survived the worst natural disaster the modern world has known makes it many times more intense. The question of “What would I do?” arises again and again.

On Boxing Day in 2004 a large earthquake in the Indian Ocean created a series of huge tsunamis that hit all land masses bordering the Indian Ocean. More than 230,000 people died. 98-foot waves hit with little or no warning. A family taking their Christmas holiday on a warm, sunny beach is crushed and separated by the first onslaught. Their struggle to survive and to find each other in the midst of unimaginable destruction and chaos is the story of The Impossible.

The glory of the film is Naomi Watts‘ performance as the mother: a doctor, crippled, nearly killed, trying to save her eldest son and anyone else she can in the absolute wasteland left once the water retreated. Tom Holland plays her son and at ten or eleven years old. He finds strength and courage beyond his years not only to live, but to save and nourish his mother when her strength finally fails. Ewan McGregor as the father is the backbone bringing the family together. He cares for the two youngest sons and searches for days to find the rest of his family. The scenes of near misses as the eldest son and father search for each other in a hospital overflowing into the streets with casualties would be comical if we hadn’t earlier experienced the catastrophe in such a visceral way.

Parts of America’s east coast recently experienced a storm of historic proportions. We also know something of the strength and determination of first responders after the attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. With that kind of devastation, as with the Indian Ocean Tsunami, as it is called, everyone who can stand becomes a first responder. Please give what you can to the American Red Cross. They are there every day.

The Impossible opens Friday Jan. 4 at the Oriental Theatre in Milwaukee.

For more of TCD’s film coverage, including Mark Metcalf‘s “Moving Pictures” reviews, visit our Film Page.

Categories: Arts & Culture, Movies

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