The Impossible - Blu-ray Review

'simultaneously shocking, distressing and heartwarming; a film trapped into remembrance of horrible situations but aware of the positive resolutions trying desperately to emerge'

The problems of dealing with real life tragedy in film are never more apparently realised than in J.A. Bayona's The Impossible, a 'based on real events' tale of a family fleeing the Boxing Day tsunami that devastated large parts of the Thai coast in 2004.

Clearly Bayona has a difficult task from the off. In two hours, The Impossible is clearly being very careful not to pay lip service to a tragedy whose scale is startling. But how do you do that in just two hours? Furthermore, how can you spend two hours on something without turning it into a 'lowlights' reel, paying lip service to people, places and events? All of those considerations then form a tension against that which would normally be a film-maker's first concern: how can you make an interesting, involving narrative, which moves at a reasonable pace?

Bayona is more successful with The Impossible in the first half of that equation. It is difficult to argue that The Impossible is not a respectful, well thought-out film, following one family but encompassing a great deal of loss, pain and suffering. Weaved through the story like a mining vein is a tangible pang of hope, which embodies itself in a spirit of co-operation and international community identity. Early on, parents Maria and Henry (Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor) discuss their life abroad and their plans to move back home. Throughout, different nationalities communicate in different languages, always helping to move each other towards, hopefully, more positive outcomes. It's simultaneously shocking, distressing and heart-warming; a film trapped into remembrance of horrible situations but aware of the positive resolutions trying desperately to emerge.

In telling this respectful tale though, Bayona makes a film that is too long and which struggles to build in all of the ideas it touches on. Survivor guilt, as an endemic consequence of something of this scale, shows up on multiple occasions, but it never gets anything more than a mention, where it arguably deserves a whole film. The balance that Bayona needs to show is, ironically, impossible to achieve perfectly and his film consistently seems to fall over based on noble aspirations.

What that can't undermine is the performance by one Ewan Gordon McGregor, an actor who does fantastic things when he has a good script and less fantastic things when he is Obi Wan Kenobi. Henry is innocently naive of how to deal with this situation and his dramatic phone call home, punctuated by tears on both sides of the fourth wall, is a stunning piece of acting, perfectly capturing realistic distress (see also: Perfect Sense). Like a lot of the work here, his performance is at a compelling and respectful pitch, which perhaps jars against other narrative elements.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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