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Friday, 04 January 2013 01:00

'The Impossible' vividly captures the fight for survival

'The Impossible' vividly captures the fight for survival
Written by Diane Carson
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  • Director: Juan Antonio Bayona
  • Dates: Opens January 4, 2013

Remember news coverage of the December 26th, 2004 tsunami that struck Southeast Asia and the inconceivable devastation it wrought. Spanish director Juan Antonia Bayona’s “The Impossible” takes the experiences of one British family as a way to represent that tragedy with terrifying realism. More astonishing, the film tells the true story of the Spanish Belon family.

In the brief introduction, parents Maria and Henry with their sons Lucas, Thomas, and Simon arrive at an idyllic resort in Khao Lak, southern Thailand. After establishing the characters—Henry temporarily works in Japan; Maria, a trained doctor, takes care of the home—the totally unexpected tsunami, a nearly 100 foot wall of water, crashes into the area, crushing everything in its path. There was no warning as it arrives in seconds.

Seldom has the force and the aftermath of a disaster been so vividly depicted. Maria is first knocked off her feet and then rolled and thrown into trees, cars, and debris—and almost everything in the environment has become debris. Impaled underwater on a branch, her leg suffers a deep wound. And it isn’t over quickly. As the water recedes, she grabs for anything to hold onto, gasps for air, and desperately cries for the oldest son, Lucas, whom she spies.

The remainder of the film involves her family, separated and in various emotionally and physically damaged states, hunting for each other. The backdrop of the hospitals and the makeshift camps feel real, filled with distressed people in dire need being helped as much as possible with makeshift hospitals and limited supplies.

As Maria, Naomi Watts convincingly maintains an emotionally frantic, but wonderfully nuanced state throughout the ordeal. As the father, Ewan McGregor does some of his best subdued work ever while also telegraphing his panic. The boys also turn in good performances, especially Tom Holland as Lucas.

“The Impossible” is but one story of the tragedy that claimed approximately 300,000 lives. Having lived through the exhausting struggle for survival and family, I couldn’t help but wonder what all the rest of the local people and tourists were going through as well. At a Landmark Theatre.

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