The Impossible (Rated PG-13) 3 Stars01-30-13-movie.gif

The Impossible (114 minutes) is a hard film to review. First, it is based on the true story of real people who survived the most devastating tsunami in recent memory. That makes it real hard to crack jokes or make sarcastic observations, and that’s 90 percent of my typical review content. Second, the acting isn’t terrible. The other 10 percent of most of my reviews revolves around calling out the over and under actors.

The length was fine, the narrative arc balanced throughout the film, and director Juan Antonio Bayona managed to avoid Spielbergian levels of emotional manipulation. Most of the bodies that show up are covered, but there are several scenes that hint at the number of dead — though, I sus-pect, without conveying the true magnitude of the disaster. Toss your leads around in a huge water tank all you want, it’s still going to fall short of the actual tsunami.

I may not have much to work with, but I can point out that the story of a Spanish family was conveniently turned into the story of a bunch of white people. In the film, María Belón is called Maria Bennet (Naomi Watts), her husband Enrique becomes Henry (Ewan McGregor) and son Tomas becomes Thomas (Samuel Joslin). At least sons Lucas (Tom Holland) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast) get to keep their names. The director may claim that his goal was to create a family of ambiguous ethnic background, but he didn’t do such a good job since after seeing the film I was left with the impression that they were from England originally. I’m not sure which was the biggest clue, but maybe it was the English accents?

The film opens on a plane. A family of five is headed overseas to vaca-tion in Thailand. There is a bit of character-establishing family discussion. It seems that Thomas is upset by his older brother Lucas ignoring him, so Mom Maria runs interference. Meanwhile, Henry fills out paperwork. As family dynamics go, the brief scene is enough to reveal all. There is a bit of mild sibling rivalry, a stay at home mom mediating the squabbles and a father more concerned with external needs than family business. McGregor and Watts have a fairly realistic chemistry and the two youngest kids are too cute to be believed.

They settle into their rooms, complete with ocean view and do vacation stuff together. They celebrate Christmas and I wonder about the lo-gistics of shipping Christmas presents back and forth by plane. Wouldn’t going to Thailand be present enough? Perhaps my standards for gift exchange are a bit off.

The appearance of the tsunami is both intense and brutal, occurring just as Henry and the two younger boys are playing in the pool, separated from Maria and Lucas. The film follows Maria and Lucas as they are swept away and hurled into a va-riety of moving and stationary objects by the unrelenting flood waters. This is seriously edge-of-the-seat stuff. Eventually, battered and dressed in the remains of their lounging-by-the-pool outfits they reach semi-safety and are assisted by locals. The rest of the film is about this little family trying to reconnect in a sea of people. Overall, a tense film that man-ages to show just a little bit of the reality of a devastating natural disaster.

Now showing at Wynnsong 7, Carmike 12 and Carmike Market Fair 15.

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