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!

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