Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Review: The Impossible

The Impossible must be called The Impossible because it's impossible to come up with a more generic title than The Impossible. Since movies are generally about seemingly impossible things that are shown to be possible onscreen, it's possible that just about any movie could be called The Impossible, thus it should be impossible that any filmmaker is willing to name his film The Impossible.

And yet, as The Impossible proves, it is possible for a movie to be called The Impossible.

Good thing for this movie with the impossibly dull title that it's impossibly good.

Spanish director J.A. Bayona, known for the 2007 horror film The Orphanage, which is so good it makes you want to high-five everyone you see, has clearly not spent the past five years playing sudoku. Instead, he must have been doing whatever it takes a budding filmmaking phenom to shake off a sophomore slump. Perhaps his activities included turning down chances to direct Resident Evil and/or Smurfs movies while brushing up on his digital tsunami recreation technique.

Instead, he and his team have fashioned a film that manages to be inspirational while soaked in the darkest of horror trappings, all wrapped up in - here's that word again - impossibly brilliant special effects and makeup that make it truly seem as though Naomi Watts was beaten about by a vividly rendered Southeast Asian tsunami in 2004, separated from her husband and children.

That husband would be Ewan McGregor, who rounds up two of the kids, only to toss them aside in order to find his wife and, apparently, the only child he really cares about. That would be his firstborn son (Tom Holland), who hangs out with his mom until she gets swallowed up by a questionably effective Southeast Asian healthcare system that Tea Partiers will surely somehow blame Obamacare for.

This is a weird story, yes. But it works because of the tear duct-flushing storytelling, passionate acting and ludicrously spot-on effects that show the tusnami's distruction on both macro and micro scales.

Based on a true story involving a family of Spaniards, the story shifts the ethnicity of the cast for no other reason than to underline the assumption that natural disasters only matter if they happen to English speakers. The thinking must have been that the compromise was a necessary evil in order to get as many people as possible to see the movie. The switcheroo is irritating at first, but only if you bothered to see where the movie came from. And it's easy to get over it due to the magnitude of the performances by watts and McGregor help you get over it.

Now that The Impossible is finally lurking into theaters after an under-the-radar platform release, you really should get out there and see it. You can not only do a heck of a lot worse these days, like maybe getting stuck with watching Russell Crowe sing all his dialogue or watching Quentin Tarantino reduced his command of the English language to a single, vile word. And, dare I say, it's nearly impossible to do better than buying a ticket to The Impossible.

Starring Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland and Samuel Joslin. Written by Sergio G. Sanchez. Directed by J.A. Bayona. 113 minutes. Rated PG-13.

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