Summit Entertainment // 2012 // 114 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // May 1st, 2013
One family's true story of survival.
Based on a true story, The Impossible was sadly mostly overlooked during the Oscar season with only a few scant nominations. The film gets a second life in viewer's homes as it arrives on Blu-ray from Summit Home Entertainment.
The Bennet family is taking a well deserved vacation in Thailand during the Christmas season. Maria (Naomi Watts, King Kong) is a successful physician with a loving Scottish husband, Henry (Ewan McGregor, Jack the Giant Slayer), and three young children: 12-year-old Lucas (Tom Holland, The Secret World of Arrietty), 7-year-old Tomas (Samuel Joslin), and 5-year-old Simon (Oaklee Pendergast). While that are relaxing at a local resort, an enormous wall of water hits the coast, washing away everything in sight. During the massive event, Maria and Lucas are separated from Henry, Simon, and Tomas. As the water ebbs and Maria struggles with a terrible wound, the Bennet family must forge against insurmountable odds to find each other among the area's worst natural disasters.
Most of us see disasters on the news, while comfortably seated in our recliners or kitchens, untouched by the devastation that Mother Nature can wrought. I can remember seeing footage of the 2004 tsunami that hit Thailand and thinking how terrible things looked; cars were tossed around like rice in the ocean, people were lost left and right, the damage looked to be not in the millions but billions. It was a truly horrific scene. Yet I was looking at the aftermath through long overhead views and distance; I could never imagine what it was like to be up close and personal in such horrible conditions.
Juan Antonia Bayona's The Impossible thrusts viewers into the heart of that 2004 disaster, and it's one of the most effective films I've ever been witness to. I watched in stunned silence as The Impossible unfolded with mounting dread; the Bennet family's initial vacation moments set the stage for what would become one of the most harrowing experiences a human being can endure.
The Impossible doesn't delve too deeply into character because, oddly, it's not really needed in a film like this. Unlike other disaster films -- The Towering Inferno, Twister, 2012 -- The Impossible is not made to be a 'fun roller coaster ride' of a movie and instead is based on a true story of real people who lost their lives. Because of this you feel you know the Bennets, even with a limited background on each family member. Their trauma and endurance becomes our trauma and endurance. It's a rare film that is able to make you really care about characters like this.
Much of The Impossible is witnessing the Bennet family try to piece together their loss and find their way back to each other. Somehow the filmmakers are able to make the family's journey both compelling and real; there are no shortcuts through their pain, especially for Maria, whose leg starts to become her own worst enemy. The film speaks not only of the power of family, but also the kindness of strangers; the Bennet family learns that some of the worst events in human history can bring out the best in mankind. This is especially true when Geraldine Chaplin (Chaplin) shows up in a brief cameo as a wise old woman who sits and muses with one of the Bennet children under the stars.
Naomi Watts was given an Oscar nomination for her role as physician Maria Bennet, and for good reason: her performance is nothing short of excellent. I don't know how torturous the filming of The Impossible was, but if watching Watts is any indication, it was not an easy shoot. Watts injects a combination of motherly love and tenacious determination into Maria which makes us care for her that much more. Ewan McGregor also gives an excellent performance as Maria's resilient husband, scouring the downed trees and debris for his wife. Special mention goes to Tom Holland and Samuel Joslin as the Bennet children, good kids forced to grow up fast and learn the power of helping others in the face of overwhelming odds.
A lot of praise also goes to the special effects team who were able to take an event like the 2004 tsunami and make it realistic without cheapening the tragedy. It would have been very easy to have shown hundreds of people getting decimated by water and debris. Instead the camera mostly stays focused on the Bennet family and their experiences with the tsunami. None of the action scenes in The Impossible are 'fun' but instead tense, harrowing, and difficult to watch.
The Impossible is presented in a stunning 2.35:1 widescreen transfer in 1080p high definition. Summit has done a wonderful job in making this video image look both gorgeous and crystal clear. The colors (especially before the tsunami hits) are deep and rich with solid black levels. Because of the clarity, viewers really get an idea of how bad the damage was to the Thailand area. The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround in both English and Spanish. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mixes are excellent and feature a lot of directional and surround sounds, making for a very sonically enveloping experience. The dialogue, music, and effects are all easily distinguishable. Overall this is a nearly reference quality video and audio presentation.
Extra features on The Impossible include an audio commentary with director Juan Antonio Bayona, writer Sergio G. Sanchez, producer Belén Atinza, and Maria Belón (whom the film is based on); a couple of short featurettes ("Casting The Impossible", "Realizing The Impossible"); around five deleted scenes, and a theatrical trailer for the film.
I cannot recommend The Impossible highly enough. The acting, effects work, screenplay, and direction are all first rate. An inspiring, moving, and genuinely excellent motion picture.
One of 2012's best films.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Summit Entertainment
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 114 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* UltraViolet Copy