Review: The Impossible
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts, Tom Holland
Director:Juan Antonio Bayona
Indian Express Rating:****
Disaster films can usually be depended upon to be utterly predictable. The Impossible is full of surprises in its telling of the real-life story of a family torn asunder by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. It shows us devastation, yes, unbelievable havoc, yes, horrific human loss, yes. But also, exemplary courage and love and compassion, all done with freshness and feeling.
The Belons, father Henry (McGregor) mother Maria (Watts), eldest son Lucas (Holland) and two younger boys, have just about begun to enjoy their idyllic vacation in a Thailand resort, when the giant tidal waves strike. We've seen other films that have captured the fury of the ocean before, but there's something about the way Spanish director Bayona films it — a panoramic view of the resort, dappled by palm trees and pretty bushes and limpid pools, which gets swept away in one heart-stopping blink of an eye — that leaves you with a dry mouth and a very bad feeling: will this family of five ever get together again?
Bayona, who directed the striking horror film The Orphanage, knows how to keep the suspense going, even as he sweeps us along the debris left behind by the waves: houses, cars, pillars, bodies half-submerged, as the badly-injured Maria tumbles out from under, draws breath and calls out to Lucas, who is being carried away in the strong current, just ahead of her. We see them struggling to keep afloat, and we have no idea if they will survive. Then they are in a hospital, Maria in a bed with an oxygen mask over her face, asking her son anxiously: what colour is my leg? Red is good, black is bad: we know what the colour signifies; so does, after a moment, her son. In that moment, he's grown, he's become the person who will take care of her, rather than the other way round.