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Friday, January 11, 2013

Review: The Impossible

One Family's "Impossible" Struggle For Survival

By Chris Sabga

I winced constantly while watching "The Impossible."
The film spends only a few minutes letting the family on screen – and the viewers – enjoy an idyllic vacation in Southeast Asia before plunging them into one of the worst natural disasters in recent history. The Belon family is happily frolicking by the pool in an opulent hotel when – suddenly – they're engulfed by a cataclysmic tsunami. After that, the movie doesn't let up for a single second. It's a harrowing journey of death, survival, and how life can change in an instant.

It's almost impossible to imagine the sheer scope of devastation caused by a disaster of this magnitude, but "The Impossible" brutally drops us underwater and then through the wreckage and right into the heart of one family's struggle to survive. Every pained footstep and infected drop of blood is meticulously laid out bare.

"The Impossible" will likely be described as a drama, but the truth is, it's a horror movie. There are no monsters or cheap around-the-corner scares, but very little could be more horrifying than this.

Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor play Maria and Henry, the parents of three little boys. Watts, in particular, delivers an incredible performance as a mother who will do anything for her child. It's all the more impressive when you consider how little dialogue she has. Her Academy Award nomination for Best Actress is certainly well-deserved. But the real surprise is young Tom Holland, who portrays Lucas, the oldest of the brothers. He is stunning in his first live-action role – every bit the equal of his more experienced co-stars and more than worthy of an Oscar nomination himself. (He was unfortunately overlooked by the Academy, likely because the acting categories are already so packed.)

The film almost never takes a wrong turn, except for one questionable decision made by Ewan McGregor's character about halfway through. However, because this is based on the true story of an actual family, Enrique Belon (renamed Henry for the film) presumably did the same in real life. The tagline "based on a true story" usually doesn't mean much, but the real Maria Belon was reportedly very involved during the filming of the movie.

"The Impossible" is by no means easy to watch. It's intense and uncomfortable, but it's also masterfully crafted and beautifully acted.

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