Many people believe that the Best Picture race for the 2013 Oscars has been narrowed down to three films: Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln and Les Miserables. But after seeing J.A. Bayona's The Impossible, it's clear that even the Academy doesn't get it right every time. Based on a remarkable true story of survival, The Impossible follows a family separated by the 2004 tsunami that rocked Thailand, Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia.
Henry (played by Ewan McGregor), his wife Maria (played by Naomi Watts) and their three young sons all travel to Thailand for a winter vacation to celebrate the Christmas holiday. While experiencing the beauty and paradise of their beachfront resort, the family finds itself forever affected by one of the deadliest natural disasters in the history of the world. Divided by a tsunami that killed north of 200,000 people, the family struggles to reconnect and defy the greatest of odds.
J.A. Bayona's The Impossible is a game-changing drama characterized by artistic direction and unparalleled acting. The young, but mightily-gifted, director uses the camera to perfection and places the moviegoer in the center of this horrific tragedy. By literally filming on top of the characters, The Impossible forces the audience to join its subjects on their unfathomable journey. In doing so, the strong bond formed between the viewers and the onscreen family becomes the foundation of the feature. This connection demands a variety of energy and emotions, making The Impossible a true testament of humanity. Even through all of the destruction and despair caused by this devastating tsunami, Bayona effectively illustrates the power of human compassion. And while sentiment can become a difficult sell, Bayona's once-in-a-lifetime cast makes it feel effortless. Naomi Watts steals the show and stakes her claim as a legitimate Best Actress contender. Right on her heels is youngster Tom Holland who portrays the family's eldest son Lucas. His character commands an enormous amount of screen time and Holland makes the most of every moment. It's shocking to discover that this is Holland's first motion picture, but the future is clearly bright for this budding star. Backed by strong direction and extraordinary performances, The Impossible stands out as one of 2012's most compelling and moving dramas.
To be perfectly honest, there are no detrimental faults with J.A. Bayona's latest masterpiece. One minor blemish resides in what some will call an "average" screenplay. The dialogue is adequate but nothing exemplary, and various other areas of the script mirror the same level of mediocre acceptance. However, the emotional force of the feature is carried out through Bayona's original sense of direction and a well rounded cast. By simply serving its purpose, a less than glaring script appropriately allows for the fascinating true story to take control of the film. Playing more as a complementary figure, the screenplay never diminishes this unbelievably amazing account of survival. Even at its weakest points, The Impossible is nothing shy of cinematic euphoria.
Throughout the course of time, meaningful movies have slipped through the cracks of a blockbuster-driven society. Thankfully, I expect the Academy to find some way to acknowledge the profound work of director J.A. Bayona and his entire team. Filled with amazing visual sequences, top flight acting and a beautiful score, The Impossible is an iconic feature that should be savored by everyone. Currently playing in select theatres, make it a point to seek out The Impossible. You won't want to miss one of 2012's finest features.