The Impossible finds light in that darkness, an almost miraculous tale of survival and perseverance that triumphed over all odds. Is it a bit too on the nose? Sure. Bayona knows how to pull the audience's heartstrings, and he does so with no apology. But he does it well, and it's hard to fault a man for pushing so many buttons if he pushes the right ones. The film certainly smacks of typical Hollywood triumph of the human spirit dramas, but when it is this well crafted and moving one can't help but admire it.
|NAOMI WATTS and TOM HOLLAND star in THE IMPOSSIBLE.|
Photo: Jose Haro © 2012 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.
It is not in any way cheap or offensive to focus on a European family. Had the story been made up there may have been more of an argument there, but it wasn't. It's true. And this family's story isn't any more or less worthy of being told because of the color of their skin. That kind of thinking is myopic and reductive to the conversation, I think, even though those that bring it up have the exact opposite intention. This is a human story, not a racial one; anything else is being projected on it by the viewer.
|OAKLEE PENDERGAST, EWAN McGREGOR and SAMUEL JOSLIN star in THE IMPOSSIBLE.|
Photo: JOSE HARO © 2012 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
It's best shot for Oscar recognition is Naomi Watts, who gives a stunning performance as Maria. The real standout for me, however, was young Tom Holland as her oldest son, Lucas. Holland almost carries the entire film on his back, as it is his resilience and emotional journey that really gives the film its heart. I'm sure the film will inspire many to roll their eyes at its bald-faced emotionalism, and that's okay. There is certainly a Hallmark channel vibe to the whole affair. But Bayona (who previously impressed with the chilling Spanish ghost story, The Orphanage) is clearly a director with a terrific eye, infusing the film with almost Spielbergian flair. He makes up for its occasionally shameless manipulation with a genuinely sincere sense of hope. The Impossible may be schmaltz, but it's damn good schmaltz. It's the kind of story that is so incredible, so impossible, that it can only be true.
GRADE - ★★★ (out of four)
THE IMPOSSIBLE | Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona | Stars Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Oaklee Pendergast, Samuel Joslin, Geraldine Chaplin | Rated PG-13 for intense realistic disaster sequences, including disturbing injury images and brief nudity | Opens Friday, 12/21, in select cities.