Director Juan Antonio Bayona delivers a tear-jerking powerhouse of a film with The Impossible. Unlike most dramatic films, The Impossible sets itself up as a disaster film, but slowly unfolds as a drama about a family finding the courage and hope to remain strong in a time of death and chaos. The film features remarkable special effects sequences, that when combined with the on-screen drama make for a truly horrifying, yet impressive experience. But none of that would have mattered had it not been for Naomi Watts, who gives one of her best performances of her career, filling the film with so much fearlessness and unshakable motivation. The Impossible isn’t an easy film to digest, but it’s one of the most inspirational tales of survival that I’ve seen in years.
The film follows Maria (Naomi Watts) and Henry (Ewan McGregor), who are vacationing with their three young boys in Southeast Asia. The time is Christmas 2004, which is when one of the most disastrous tsunamis ever recorded strikes and takes with it over 230,000 innocent souls.
The Impossible is the real-life story of one family that against all of the odds managed to survive the horrible tsunami and the aftermath that followed.
Director Juan Antonio Bayona doesn’t cut a single corner when it comes to giving the audience a drama that’s about as tense as they come. Right from the get go The Impossible separates itself from the other disaster-oriented films by focusing not just on the scale of the mayhem, but the intimacy of the struggle. Bayona reveals remarkable craftsmanship with the opening disaster sequence, showing every little detail involved in something this catastrophic, while never selling short on the human emotion.
The Impossible isn’t just about disaster though. It’s mostly about piecing everything back together. To remain hopeful in hopeless times and above all it’s about the will to survive and the ability to help those around you survive. Bayona establishes these important themes throughout by constantly showing us the good that’s surrounded by bad.
Thousands upon thousands of people are swept away in the blink of an eye and even more are brutally ripped apart and thrown around in the aftermath, but not once does that stop others from helping. If anything Bayona captures the good in humans when it comes to being united by such a terrible event.
He widens the scope and shows not just humans, but animals interacting and helping each other too, which helps make the message even more universal. Bayona might get some crap for choosing to cast white people for the main family, when the real-life story featured another ethnicity, but I feel like people getting caught up in those kinds of details are missing the point completely. Bayona isn’t trying to tell a white person drama or an American drama, but instead a universal drama that is equally powerful to all races and classes.
Naomi Watts delivers one of the finest performances in her career as the caring mother that absolutely will not stop until her family is safe. Watts expresses these rooted emotions both physically and emotionally. Her character gets thrown around quite a bit and it only helps Watts capture that vulnerability even better. Ewan McGregor attempts his own version of dramatic as the father, but due to the lack of screen time he’s severely underplayed.
The Impossible isn’t a perfect film. It spends a little too much time on a sappy climax that could have been wrapped up in a much tighter manner and it’s got issues when it comes to balancing the performances for an even spread, but even with those gripes it’s still a heavy-hitter that’ll leave most in well-deserved tears.
Director Juan Antonio Bayona shows off his ability to capture disaster with scope and scale like no other, while also scaling back and focusing on the drama when the film calls for it. The Impossible is not an easy film to sit through, because of just how real everything feels, but it’s a motivational piece of work that shows how much good can come from such a bad situation and films like this need to be shared and viewed and not pushed under the rug due to casting decisions.
The film comes to Blu-Ray with a 1080p video transfer that’s sharp, beautiful (before the disaster) and mostly consistent. Bayona focuses heavily on the pretty scenery before tragedy strikes and then he slowly reveals the true ugliness of it all as the film progresses. Still, skin tones and textures are remarkably clear.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track almost hits too close to home. The sound of such an event sends chills up the spine as if an actual tsunami was striking somewhere close by. The details muffled with the various water effects are thumping and potent.
Here’s a list of bonus content found on the disc:
- Audio Commentary
- Casting The Impossible Featurette ((HD)
- Realizing The Impossible Featurette (HD)
- Deleted Scenes (HD)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD)
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
The Impossible is a heavy-hitting drama about hope and survival and the general goodness of the human spirit in a time of great help. Juan Antonio Bayona directs the film with a strong understanding of how to both scare you with realism, while also inspiring you with it too. It’s an achievement in special effects, while also providing an Oscar-nominated performance by Naomi Watts.
Don’t go in expecting another Hollywood big-budget and extremely shallow depiction of such terror and tragedy, because The Impossible is the complete opposite, focusing on real-life disaster with a raw and unafraid approach that’s bold, daring and forceful.