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Blu-ray Review: 'The Impossible'

“The Impossible” looks like a dramatization of a real-life disaster, but in the immensely skilled hands of director Juan Antonio Bayona, it quickly reveals itself as a kind of horror film.
Published: April 26, 2013
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Blu-ray Review: ‘The Impossible'

“The Impossible” looks like a dramatization of a real-life disaster, but in the immensely skilled hands of director Juan Antonio Bayona, it quickly reveals itself as a kind of horror film, one that will cut particularly close to the bone for parents but contains enough suspense to unnerve just about anyone. Naomi Watts was nominated for a best actress Oscar at this year's Academy Awards, and her utterly convincing, visceral performance is entirely worthy.

The title refers to the blue-sky horror that descends on Henry and Maria (Ewan McGregor and Watts) and their three young children as their relaxing vacation in Thailand is upended by the cataclysmic 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed nearly 300,000 people. Bayona's early masterstroke is his mind-blowing recreation of the event — the destructive power of the ocean swell looks like documentary footage, but the real terror begins with the family's separation. Maria and oldest son Lucas (Tom Holland) are swept far into Thailand's interior, severely wounded as they are thrown against broken trees and rubble, and until about halfway through “The Impossible,” the fate of Henry and youngest boys Thomas and Simon (Samuel Joslin and Oaklee Pendergast) is a total mystery.

This is Bayona's follow-up to 2007's masterful horror film, “The Orphanage,” and it is no surprise that Bayona was able to create suspense around this true story, based on the first-person account of survivor Maria Belon, who contributes to the audio commentary with Bayona, writer Sergio Sanchez and producer Belen Atienza. The Blu-ray also includes a featurette in which some of the effects are explained, but it's better to just appreciate the extraordinary illusion Bayona creates in the beginning and the horrifying tension that follows until the end.

George Lang