Film review by Jason Day of Lo Impossible/The Impossible about the Boxing Day Tsunami starring Naomi Watts.
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A Spanish family (Watts, McGregor and children Holland, Joslin and Pendergast the children) on a Christmas holiday in Thailand find they have to dig as deep as humans possibly can to survive one of the most devastating natural disasters in recent memory: the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004.
Review, by Jason Day
The 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami was a disaster that quite literally shook the world, so unprecedented was its speed, ferocity and the surprise by which it took all of those affected. It has formed the basis for countless TV documentaries, books and of course news items. This drama minimises its focus on the efforts of one small family to find each other amidst the horror that unfolds around them at their exclusive Thai beach resort.
In real-life, they are the Spanish Belon family so the anglicisation of their names, accents and background is a curious point to note, particularly when it is pretty obvious that almost everyone involved in making this film on the other side of the camera are Spanish. Director Boyana stated that he did not want to specify the nationalities of the family to make his form universal. An odd statement to make as they are rendered totally English in every other way, but no matter. Maria Belon, however, worked closely with the screenwriter to ensure their story was reflected accurately on the screen.
Opening on a deafening cacophony of noise, ironically turning out to be the comparatively ‘safe’ buzz of an airliner landing at Phuket airport, the link between holiday and disaster already implanted in the audiences mind. We d not have long to wait as the tsunami happens as rapidly and as shockingly on screen as in real life.
The disaster itself , as they often are in such movies, is done with relatively quickly. The challenge for the film-maker now is to maintain momentum and build tension throughout the duration. The Impossible does this not with fancy CGI trickery or mighty set pieces of calamity but by dragging you through the ordeal of what happens after disaster, when one is seriously injured, hungry, confused and exhausted but still have the fight to survive ahead of you. It is the most gruelling film of the new year, possibly for the whole year.
Watts therefore fully deserves the plaudits that have been garlanded on her (as I write, January 14, there are Best Actress nominations for the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild and, of course, the forthcoming Oscar). This is a uniquely physical performance. Shorn of glamour (she is caked in blood, sweat, tears and mud for the most part), clothes and body torn, breast hanging out, she summons up every ounce of pained suffering to endure the worst that nature throws at her. But rather than being depressing, she helps turn the film into a life-affirming and positive experience for the audience. An exhausting, difficult, but memorable one.
The cast is uniformly impressive, but most noteworthy in the cast is the impressive Holland as the eldest son Lucas who has to mature as fast as his mother’s health deteriorates.
There are some omissions (Daniel, the little boy Watts insists on rescuing at the beginning of the film, mysteriously vanishes only to reappear near the conclusion) and downright odd moments (Chaplin appears briefly as a traumatised ‘Old Woman’ talking to one of Watts’ younger children), but in the main this is a careful and meticulous account and, even more impressive, an intelligent ‘disaster’ movie.
Cast & credits
Director: Juan Antonio Boyana. 113mins. Apache/Telecino/Mediaset/Canal + et al (12A)
Producers: Belen Atienza, Alvaro Augustin, Ghislain Barrois, Enrique Lopez Lavigne
Writer: Sergio G. Sanchez
Camera: Oscar Faura
Music: Fernando Velazquez
Sets: Eugenio Caballero
Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast, Marta Etura, Sonke Mohring, Geraldine Chaplin, Ploy Jindachote, Jomjaoi Sae-Limh, Johan Sundberg, Jan Roland Sundberg.