The Impossible (***½)

A film that captures real life the way J.A. Bayona captures it in his newest film The Impossible is a rare occurrence in filmmaking.  Not only does he pay respect to the countless victims that were lost in the devastating tragedy, he makes artistic choices and liberties only the most seasoned directors can take.  Starring Academy Award Nominee Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, the film tells the TRUE story about a family vacationing in Thailand when one of the worst natural disasters of our time separates them.

The brave and committed performance by Naomi Watts is the miracle of the film and possibly the entire year.  Watts falls into the role of “Maria” with perfect precision and accuracy.  As a person who’s only been a father for a year-and-a-half, Watts puts me right in the moment of unimaginable fear and pain.  An Oscar-caliber turn as I’ve ever witnessed.  The entire first half of the film is shared with Tom Holland, a child actor that can only be described as well beyond his years.  Holland is motivated and equally as afflicting as Watts.  A performance like his can only lead to more roles for him in the future.  In the opening credits of the film, Bayona tells the audience that the story is true, but what may bother viewers and critics is how coincidental and inflated the story can seem.  If it weren’t in fact true, the film would fail within the first few moments.  It’s the notion that this did occur that demonstrates and heightens the execution of Bayona and writer Sergio G. Sanchez so brilliantly.  The Impossible is the most emotional and devastating picture seen since Paul Greengrass’ United 93 (2006).  In the first several minutes, I was already in tears.  Letting up only for short breaths, I feel like I didn’t stop crying the entire time.  I was invested, full body and soul, riding among the victims in a frightening state of mind.  I could only imagine myself there, terrifyingly so and with appreciation now that I wasn’t.

Ewan McGregor, who unbeknownst to me has gone this long without receiving any type of Oscar attention is pure magic.  He shows an effortless approach as Henry, a father desperate to find his family.  If there’s one poor criticism about the film it’s the first half of the film, where Holland and Watts dominate, is so gut-wrenching and brilliant that when McGregor and his story enter the screen, it unfortunately just pales by comparison.  McGregor isn’t given the most of character development to chew through but it’s still an admirable work.

Cinematographer Oscar Faura’s orange and yellow camera work demands the utmost attention from the viewer, gaining a near first-person view of what could have been.  It’s a technical achievement of the highest levels.  Fernando Velasquez’s somber score will only build the tears even more as your catapulted through this reenactment of terror.  J.A. Bayona’s direction is simple but delivered with reverence.  A fine directorial turn.

This is a film that must be experienced by all.  As you lay in your cozy beds tonight, take your loved ones for granted as they walk by you, and breathe the air you so blindly feel entitled to, think about if at one moment, one single moment, from now, it was all gone.  The Impossible dared me to be a better human being, a notion not many films will or attempt to convey.  I’ll try to listen.

This is one of the best pictures of the year!