THE IMPOSSIBLE (director: J.A. Bayona; screenwriter: Sergio G. Sanchez; cinematographer: Oscar Faura; editors: Elena Ruiz/Bernat Vilaplana; music: Fernando Velazquez; cast: Naomi Watts (Maria Bennett), Ewan McGregor (Henry Bennett ), Tom Holland (Lucas Bennett), Samuel Joslin (Thomas Bennett), Oaklee Pendergast (Simon Bennett), Geraldine Chaplin (Old Woman); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Enrique López Lavigne/Ghislain Barrois/Álvaro Augustín/Belén Atienza; Summit Entertainment; 2012-Spain/USA-in English)

"Rare disaster film that's not a complete disaster on film."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Spanish film-maker J.A. Bayona ("The Orphanage"), for his first American film, helms this rare disaster film that's not a complete disaster on film. Bayona deftly weaves together a cloying emotional drama about survival and bringing a family closer, while realistically capturing on film the reconstruction of the 98-foot-high tidal waves from the Indian Ocean sweeping through Thailand's coastal towns and tossing people and heavy objects around as if they were paperweights. The disaster was reconstructed on Thailand-based sets, a Spain-based liquid tank and with creative f/x. Writer Sergio G. Sanchez, the director's regular collaborator, bases it on a true story of the Spain residing Belon family, written by the wife Maria, who tells of her family's harrowing adventure while vacationing in Thailand in December 2004 and how they managed to survive the deadliest weather catastrophe in the country's history (some 300,000 were estimated killed).

British-born businessman Henry Bennett (Ewan McGregor), frets about losing his corporation job to a rival, and his ideal wife (the story is based on her notes), a non-practicing doctor named Maria (Naomi Watts), arrive at a luxury Thai beach resort with their three boys--Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast)--on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day while enjoying their paradise-like surroundings and frolicking in and around the pool, suddenly gale force winds and tidal waves emerge and separate Maria and her surly oldest son Lucas from Henry and the two younger boys. How they all survived is something to behold, with a bloodied Maria and Lucas saved when taken to a Thai mountain village ruled by a spiritual old woman (Geraldine Chaplin).

The genuinely affecting performances from the family makes this a solid pic, though far from a great one. Its life lessons dished out and the courage depicted to withstand such tragedy,  at some point, begins to sound like just so much Spielberg uplift.

But if you ever wondered what it would be like to be stuck in a tsunami, this pic gives you a pretty good idea.

REVIEWED ON 11/30/2012       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"