Combustible Celluloid
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With: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast, Marta Etura, Sönke Möhring, Geraldine Chaplin
Written by: Sergio G. Sánchez, based on a story by Maria Belon
Directed by: Juan Antonio Bayona
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense realistic disaster sequences, including disturbing injury images and brief nudity
Running Time: 114
Date: 09/09/2012

The Impossible (2012)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Flood Simple

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A few years ago, Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage) visited San Francisco and attended a reception for my critics' group, where we ate and drank and talked movies. That was nice, but it doesn't help me to be any warmer or more forgiving to his follow-up feature The Impossible.

Telling the story of a terrible tsunami in Thailand and how it separated a family of five, the movie is apparently based on a true story. However, though the director is Spanish, and the real family was Spanish, the characters were changed to white and English presumably to make the movie more "universally appealing," which is just stupid.

Moreover, I genuinely cannot understand the appeal of disaster movies, other than to marvel at the special effects (which are, in this movie, formidable). This movie is depressing and brutal, without the tingle of a horror movie and without anything to buffer the blow. If The Impossible were about climate change, for example, and hid that message inside the drama, that would be one thing. But it's very simply about how terrible this particular tsunami was. It just tells us that, directly, with no subtext. Do we really need a movie for that?

My question is: why would anyone want to see this? And perhaps even better: why would anyone spend a year of their lives (perhaps more) actually making it?

Regardless, some of the members of my group have been buzzing about the child actor, Tom Holland, who plays the oldest son, as well as Naomi Watts, who spends most of the movie bleeding and screaming in pain. Ewan McGregor also stars, but you'd do better to see either of his two other 2012 movies instead: Haywire and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.

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