The Impossible reviews

Mister Tee
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Re: The Impossible reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Sep 10, 2012 10:22 pm

Hollywood Reporter

The Impossible: Toronto Review

6:45 PM PDT 9/10/2012 by Deborah Young

The Bottom Line

A tremendously realistic disaster movie has an intense emotional payoff.

The actors give edge-of-seat performances as their characters weather the 2004 East Asian catastrophe in J.A. Bayone's taut disaster film.

As intensely concentrated as its title, The Impossible is one of the most emotionally realistic disaster movies in recent memory -- and certainly one of the most frightening in its epic re-creation of the catastrophic 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

As the opening titles stress, it is based on a true story incredible in itself and dramatized with the utmost emotional realism by Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona. The fact that the real family of five vacationers who survived the disaster were Spaniards perhaps explains why this lavish production comes from Madrid’s Apaches Entertainment. Edge-of-seat performances by Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor are fully supported by three child actors who give the story its extraordinary realism and visceral impact that left Toronto audiences alternately clutching their seats and dabbing at damp eyes. It will begin rolling out in Europe in October and in the U.S. at Christmastime through Summit.

This accomplished work is only Bayona’s second film, and like his thriller debut The Orphanage -- a ghost story that sold internationally -- it manages to blend the horrific with the real world as seen through the eyes of children, inevitably suggesting a comparison to Steven Spielberg, though without the magic. Sergio C. Sanchez’s screenplay simply has no time for fanciful moments or side-stories in its straight-arrow account of the terrible disaster. That unwavering sense of purpose, which is dramatically the reuniting of a scattered family, is the film’s great strength, and it keeps viewers tensely engrossed through the entire first hour.

Bayona takes control from his first shot of an airplane roaring past the camera on its flight over the ocean. Aboard it are the handsome young British couple Maria Bennet (Watts) and her husband Henry (McGregor) with their three young sons. Their closeness is quickly established during their first laughing, playful days in a paradise resort in Khao Lak, Thailand. They are in the pool area, Maria with their eldest son Lucas (Tom Holland) and Henry playing ball with the younger sons Simon (Oaklee Pendergast) and Thomas (Samuel Joslin), when a low, forbidding rumble makes them turn toward the ocean.

There is no mystery about what is to come, but Bayona and his bold cinematographer Oscar Faura give it maximum shock value anyway. The wave is re-created not as a towering CGI water wall but rather as tourists in the resort see it coming: a dark brown mass knocking down row after row of thick palm trees, like soldiers falling before an unstoppable force. It sweeps over the holiday-makers before they can protect themselves, hurling cars and buildings before it. Everything disappears under its power, and for 10 harrowing minutes of sustained tension, the nightmare continues. Maria is knocked through a glass wall but emerges in the middle of the swirling debris. Crying and screaming for her son, she miraculously spots him far away, the only human being in a desert of moving water. In utter terror, they attempt to reach each other, constantly pulled apart by the rushing water full of deadly obstacles.

This grim scene is shot without a moment’s respite, leaving the audience almost as anxious and drained as the characters onscreen. Nor is there a breather when the worst seems over, because only when they emerge from the water is the seriousness of Maria’s injuries apparent. Her face is cut up, and the skin has been all but stripped from one of her legs. A doctor by training, she bravely ties a makeshift tourniquet around her thigh, but the excruciating pain never leaves Watts’ face as they forge their way to a hospital with the help of some locals.

Some time later, Henry is alive and screaming their names at the resort, reduced to broken wall and caved-in roofs. Miraculously again, the two small boys are with him. He puts them on a truck bound for safer ground and stays behind to continue his desperate search.

The story now shifts gears to the family’s anxious attempt to find one another, not knowing whether the others are still alive. Although not as dramatic as the film’s first part, the suspense is kept high through the children, each of whom is called on to perform acts of adult heroism. Young Holland in particular is astonishingly good as the terrified but courageous Lucas. Forced into the role of his mother’s protector, he guards her bedside fiercely in the chaos and horror of the crowded hospital, where she sinks in and out of consciousness with the threat of losing her leg, and possibly her life. Touchingly, he helps people search for their loved ones, allowing the theme of empathy for other human beings emerges far more naturally than in most Hollywood scripts.

Watts packs a huge charge of emotion as the battered, ever-weakening Maria whose tears of pain and fear never appear fake or idealized. McGregor, cut and streaked with excessive blood he seems too distraught to wash away, keeps the tension razor-sharp as he pursues his family in a vast, shattered landscape.

High-quality tech work blends seamlessly to create some unforgettable visual imagery greatly enhanced for the powerful use of sounds. Fernando Velazquez’s score is not afraid to step in operatically to push the emotions even farther but at times feels unnecessarily manipulative when everything onscreen is already at a fever pitch.

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Re: The Impossible reviews

Postby bizarre » Mon Sep 10, 2012 1:51 pm

Even if this continues getting great reviews, I'm not sure the acting will be a contender. "Mostly bedridden role" brings up images of a feature-length Cate Blanchett in Babel.

Mister Tee
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The Impossible reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Sep 10, 2012 9:29 am

This strikes me as being in the same range as The Way Back -- which was talked up as an Oscar hopeful and then basucally vanished -- but there's talk of Naomi Watts in the lead actress category, so...


The Impossible
(Spain-U.S.)
By Justin Chang

The most harrowing disaster movie in many a moon, "The Impossible" marries a tremendous feat of physical filmmaking to an emotional true story of family survival. Cannily fusing spectacle and uplift in a distinctly Spielbergian manner, talented Spanish helmer J. A. Bayona captures the devastation wrought by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami with a raw, sickening intensity, demonstrating a surefooted but rather less elemental touch in the calculated-to-resonate aftermath. Wrenchingly acted, deftly manipulated and terrifyingly well made, this not-for-the-squeamish Summit release stands to be a significant year-end draw.

The title refers to the extraordinary circumstances by which the Belon family, vacationing in Thailand in December 2004, managed to weather the deadliest catastrophe in the country's history. Sergio G. Sanchez's screenplay (with a story credited to surviving wife and mother Maria Belon) dramatizes the events with a lean, pared-down simplicity. Not a frame is wasted, as British-born businessman Henry Bennett (Ewan McGregor) and his doctor wife, Maria (Naomi Watts), arrive at a Thai beach resort with their three boys on Christmas Eve, arguing, laughing and playing like any loving family right when disaster strikes.

In a staggeringly vivid 10-minute reconstruction, 98-foot-high tidal waves sweep through Thailand's coastal towns, flinging people, cars and debris around like dolls. Almost immediately, the enormous walls of water separate Maria and oldest son Lucas (Tom Holland) from Henry and the two younger boys, Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast).

Longer and more concentrated in impact than the tsunami prologue of Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter," this gale-force sequence was achieved using Thailand-based sets, a Spain-based liquid tank, several thousand gallons of water, and seamlessly integrated f/x. While the scenes of sweeping, large-scale destruction are stunning to behold, the most nightmarish sights and sounds come via Maria's perspective as she's repeatedly dragged beneath the surface; few films have so palpably evoked the sensation of drowning, or of being pounded relentlessly by muddy waves and debris.

Steadying themselves by clinging to a felled tree, Lucas and a badly injured Maria eventually find their way to dry land. Detailing every groan, scrape and shudder with almost unbearable deliberation, the film documents their agonizingly slow journey to a crowded hospital; meanwhile, Henry searches for them amid the wreckage of the resort, unsure of how best to take care of Thomas and Simon in the meantime.

Collaborating again after their impressive 2007 debut feature, "The Orphanage," Bayona and Sanchez get many things right here, starting with their decision to eschew a more panoramic view of the disaster to follow one family's journey from start to finish. The stripped-down approach suits an intimate story of individuals pushed to their limits -- to a place where survival and reunion become their sole priorities. TV news footage is kept to a refreshing minimum; any context about the scope of the tragedy is gleaned primarily from the Bennetts' sympathetic conversations with their fellow refugees. Lessons about the nobility of sacrifice and the satisfaction of helping others in times of crisis emerge stirringly and organically from the characters' experiences, along with spontaneous moments of life-affirming humor.

Watts has few equals at conveying physical and emotional extremis, something she again demonstrates in a mostly bedridden role, and McGregor, in one of his better recent performances, manages to turn a simple phone call home into a small aria of heartbreak. Holland, in his live-action bigscreen debut, is wonderful as a kind, somewhat short-tempered kid who still has plenty to learn, setting the tone for similarly heartrending turns by young Joslin and Pendergast.

In many respects, particularly the way it gives children an enormous role to play on a canvas of epic calamity, this is prototypical Spielberg fare, and as such it's not immune to a certain emotional manipulation. As the virtually unrelieved tension and anxiety of the first half give way to less grueling scenes of will-they-find-each-other suspense, signaled by increasingly operatic surges in Fernando Velazquez's score, "The Impossible" contrives a conclusion that, however true to life it may be, can't help but feel somewhat artificially imposed in relation to what has preceded it.

Through it all, Bayona's handling of the overarching logistics -- marshaling hundreds of extras (many of them real-life tsunami survivors) in scenes of such overwhelming verisimilitude that you can practically smell the blood, sweat and squalor -- is nothing short of masterly. In a tech package without a weak link, from the unerring camera placement to the forceful editing, the most notable element may be the exceptionally detailed soundscape, which announces itself with a near-deafening drone early on and proves invaluable in pounding home the film's visceral impact.


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