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IN SHORT: Another Best of the Year list film. [Rated PG-13 for intense realistic disaster sequences, including disturbing injury images and brief nudity. 114 minutes]
Given that we write for adult readers, all should remember news of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and the subsequent tsunami which killed nearly three hundred thousand people. The Impossible is the story of five persons in the middle of that disaster -- a disaster that outdoes anything Irwin Allen ever came up with for the big screen.
Because it's real.
It is Christmas-time. A British family, now residents of Japan, take their holiday at a sea side resort in Thailand. Henry Bennett (Ewan McGregor) worries about his job. Wife Maria (Naomi Watts) considers resuming an abandoned medical practice. Their three sons Simon (Oaklee Pendergast), Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Lucas (Tom Holland) are all boys having the time of their lives and waiting for whatever Christmas presents their parents have stashed in the luggage.
On the day after Christmas Day . . . Boxing Day to the Brits . . . the ocean rises up and drops two enormous waves on the resort. Everything goes underwater. Every person, place and thing on the Thai coast. The film's re-creation of the tsunami that was news everywhere in the world will make your jaw drop. Period.
Maria and Lucas survive the initial pair of waves. Their survival story is graphic and gripping and in the aftermath, Thai natives come looking to salvage the survivors. We chose that word deliberately. Maria's leg is hurt and she is taken to medical care in the nearest city, Lucas stays with her, eyes open for his father and brothers. Once she is looked after, all the bile swallowed as the waters consumed the people starts vomiting up. Maria -- with the incorrectly identifying name "Muriel Barnes" marked on her arm -- tells Lucas to go help the other people. He wanders through the medical ward, trying to find and reunite families torn to pieces by the tsunami. He helps a German family reunite but, he comes back to find his mother's bed is now filled by a stranger . . . well, stuff happens.
Meanwhile, back at the what is left of the resort, Papa Bennett is searching for the family . . . . and helicopters are coming to evacuate the survivors to the mountains The adult survivors that remain all look for their families. They try to reach relatives back in their home countries before the cell phone batteries run out.
And then, there are the bodies. Dozens and dozens, laid out in a row for the survivors to identify. And the truck that takes all the children away. And the paths that cross and yet never intersect. We apologize for the poetic nonsense, but once you see it begin to happen on the big screen, your emotional trigger will be ready to be pulled.
Disasters, especially the real ones (Cranky writes from the east coast where not-hurricane Sandy's effects are still hurting) are the very thing that should be disturbing to us grown-ups. That there can be, well, redeeming movies like The Impossible to come out of them should be, well, impossible. But here it is.
This is the time of year that films tend to get big and heavy and burdensome. The Impossible is well described by the first two adjectives but not the last one. The Impossible carries emotional effects that, let us just say that Cranky was crying like a little baby by the time the film was done. We won't tell you what triggered the tears. You (and I'm addressing the adult readers) will know the moment as soon as you see it.
You will see it because I'm telling you to. If you've got kids, you'll be sitting in a pool by the time the film is done.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Impossible, he would have paid . . .
The $9* rating is given equally to all films that possess that certain "statue worthy" element that becomes important as the year wraps up.
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