The Impossible (2012)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Annoyingly well-measured doses of realism and sentimentality lay the foundation for this cleverly constructed and well-acted dramatization about a holidaying family of five who were among the thousands of people struck by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The film is based on a Spanish family's real story and is an entirely Spanish production, but director J. A. Bayona (El Orfanato) has adapted the protagonists to English speakers of an undefined nationality – to unproblematic effect. As long as you view this film at face value and don't fall into the trap of making it representative for anything but itself, which would be grossly unfair, this is a powerful and ultimately life-affirming drama about a few lucky ones who survived against all odds surrounded by death. Some reviewers have criticized the film for telling the story of a few well-off westerners who survived this tragedy, when there were so many poor locals who did not, which is an utterly outrageous criticism. There were several well-off westerners in the area at the time. Just like the locals, a few of them survived. Their story is as valid as anyone's, and director Bayona does a fine job of making it come alive on screen. The action-sequences of the tsunami itself are especially well made, and Bayone lets us feel the chaos and dispair nailing just the right balance of overview and confusion. Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor both deliver moments of great dramatic power (McGregor is amazing in a scene where he calls home), even if they also must endure scenes that are a little too close to melodrama, especially towards the end.