Monday, July 6, 2015

The Impossible

This review is Spoiler-free.

Based on the true story of the 2004 tsunami that hit Thailand, and one vacationing family of five's struggle to survive and find each other in the destruction.

The Bennett family.

The family in real-life was Spanish, but here they are British. Otherwise the basics of their story are all very accurate, but I imagine embellished a little in some of the details. Ewan McGregor is the father, Henry, and Naomi Watts is the mother, and central character, Maria. Their three sons, Lucas, Thomas, and Simon are played by Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, and Oaklee Pendergast, respectively.

Full disclosure: I only gained an interest to watch this movie once Tom Holland was cast as Spider-Man, and I suddenly wanted to witness his acting abilities. I watched it for that reason -- and got more out of it than I expected to besides -- but satisfied myself on this front too. Tom Holland is absolutely a capable and talented actor. Most of the movie is from his perspective, and he is easily one of the most involving and relatable characters. He seems very well-trained in the craft, with lots of discipline. He delivered his lines and moved very deliberately (though the latter was a trait often obviously encouraged by the filming style and adopted by everyone) and used body language expertly and naturally. He was only slightly lacking in that he never managed any actual tears while crying.

The film follows two story lines -- Lucas and Maria in one...

And yes -- this is a crying movie. On that note: It was Ewan McGregor who impressed me most in the film, when his one very emotional scene was the most real-seeming in the movie, and the only scene that tempted me to cry along. Naomi Watts was nominated for a leading actress Oscar for her performance, and I can see why, but I can also see why she didn't win. There just wasn't enough there for her to do, but what she does do is noteworthy. The younger two boys were quite good too, but are featured considerably less than the previous three. The middle one, Samuel Joslin had one or two simple, profound moments.

... and Henry in the other, as he tries to find them while keeping Thomas and Simon safe.

This movie is very serious and wrenchingly emotional; not my usual cup of tea for a movie. But I did realize the good movie that it is. I appreciated the majority of it as high quality film making; was interested in half as much as an involving story; and even liked a fraction of that as personally memorable and enjoyable moments, details, and performances. It must have been extremely difficult to put together, film, and act in, and all of it had a definite air of high quality; it was thoughtfully scripted, expertly filmed, devotedly acted, neatly cut, and uniquely styled.

The dramatically ominous style came with a side effect though. It was only halfway innocently enhancing, and often was also used as a gimmick to help get that high emotional and dramatic level that was wanted (and to make the film last longer). A level that was achieved fully by exploiting what involving drama was naturally there, and if you must do that kind of thing, at least have the courtesy of being subtle about it. The only thing that wasn't ever affected by calculated tweaking and enhancing was the horror element, which was about as high as it could be all by itself. A solid half of the other moments were milked for all they were worth. The unaffected moments were the ones I loved, but artificial or not, it all left quite a big impression.

It really was seriously, realistically scary at times.

Knowing that the film's purpose was to garner an emotional response from its audience was the one thing I balked at. It felt dishonest; like an elaborate trick, and it shouldn't have, because it really was a real event. I got my enjoyment from everything except letting myself get involved in the emotions and drama, but I still felt as involved as I normally am in movies, and it still left me drained. I appreciated and was impressed by more than I expected -- the natural terror, the wonder, the look at characters completely removed from their reality and comfort zones, and the involved and dedicated performances and technical world around them that made it all real -- but all from an wary and removed distance. That is, after all, the best place from which to view a devastating tsunami of peaked emotions, drama, terror, and human tragedy like that of The Impossible.


  1. I remember how this movie was "all the rage" a while back...I think it might be a bit intense for me, but the acting does seem to have been quite good, so we'll see:)

    1. It does have tense moments, but it does balance the intensity with plenty of mellow, dramatic moments too. The acting is quite good, and on the whole it has a positive feel. That's what I got at least. If you do go for it, I hope you enjoy it. :)