Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Impossible

The Impossible, starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, depicts a vacationing family of five trying to survive the 2004 tsunami and locate each other after the flood separates them. With its narrow focus on the family and a few other vacationers on the coast of Thailand, this is no action-disaster epic like 2012. The CGI is realistic, there is no comic relief, and the only dog we see is a dead one.

A grim survival story with a narrow focus, the film includes a number of gut wrenching widescreen images: the tsunami striking a seaside resort; the racing flood carrying victims and rubble; and the vast wasteland of destruction. Commendable too is the highly detailed art direction of the sprawling field of detritus and the blood-streaked, trash-strewn rooms and hallways of an overcrowded hospital. Watts and McGregor are excellent; Tom Holland as the oldest son, Lucas, emerges as a central, touching character as he cares for his injured mother. Though the climax attempts to stage the big, swelling emotional moment, the most touching moment, and my pick for the most touching moment in any 2012 film, comes when a lost boy comforts himself, and the injured Maria (Watts), by running his fingers up and down her grimy arm.

Yeah, this film has the things I love: touching drama; awesome forces of nature; gripping perils; and stunning widescreen images. But watching The Impossible, I found myself loving an element that often doesn't figure into my evaluation of a film. I found myself totally impressed by the sound effects. Go to this film for the sound! The film starts with sound as its focus: a growing watery rumble that provides a twist when it turns out to be something we don't expect. During the tsunami, we hear a symphony of sharp, threatening sounds caused by the flooding water and every tumbling, dangerous piece of rubble that narrowly misses Maria as she is swept inland. This is a film well worth hearing!


Jason Bellamy said...

The attempts at swelling emotion throughout the film never seemed to be correctly calibrated. But the disaster scenes -- from the sound to the CGI to the art direction -- are spectacular. And yet, not spectacular: wisely, the movie doesn't try to make this rival blockbuster "disaster movies"; it takes a more straightforward approach.

Especially terrifying were the shots of Watts being thrown violently and torn to pieces within the tsunami. I'd never really imagined what it would look/feel like to be caught up in something like that, but THE IMPOSSIBLE is a convincing depiction.

(Also: It's a small thing, but as cheap as it might seem, the decision to have Watts' top partially ripped off her is one of those details that makes the whole thing ring true. I remember reading something about the big tornado that hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a few years back, and there was a story about a survivor who had her stud earring ripped out by the storm. It seems impossible to me that stud earrings could be ripped out of someone's ears without that person being torn to pieces, but such is the awesome, strange power of nature.)

Hokahey said...

Jason, yes, the shots showing what goes on under the racing flood are especially graphic and they make you wince. Man, they did survive the Impossible! Like going into a battle in which all sorts of projectiles are flying through the air, whether or not you are hit is a lottery. Maria and her son get struck by some things - the outcropping of branches - ouch! - but they luckily get missed by the big things that would have killed them.

Hokahey said...

Another thought, nature is especially awesome. That is why I am totally fascinated by any film that depicts the power of nature. The recent film The Hunter, which I watched again last night, shows the awesome power of nature in a more subtle way. In this case, the wilderness has the power to swallow up the humans that venture into it.

Sam Juliano said...

"Yeah, this film has the things I love: touching drama; awesome forces of nature; gripping perils; and stunning widescreen images."

Yep! I LOVE the film, which placed #7 on my year-end best list. It's a wrenching study of separation with honest emotions, and young Tom Holland gives one of the years finest performances as the older son. Very nice work here Hokahey! Valasquez composed a lovely score, which for me rates with Mychael danna's for THE LIFE OF PI.

Hokahey said...

Sam, thanks again. I forgot to mention the score; I really liked it and felt it wasn't overbearing. This was a well-made little film that hardly has a weak spot.