Movie Review: 'The Impossible' -- 2.5 stars
Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona
Starring Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland
"The Impossible" chronicles a family's harrowing plight after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in Thailand, so it might not be the escapist fare many New Yorkers are seeking in this post-Sandy holiday season.
But if you can stand to watch a simulation of waterborne horrors even after the real thing hit our shores, there's no question that director Juan Antonio Bayona has produced an impressive cinematic spectacle, with scenes of destruction and primal, desperate survival writ large.
At least that's true for the first half of the film, in which a British family's luxurious Christmas vacation suddenly transforms into a nightmare. A torrential wall of water separates mom Maria (Naomi Watts) and son Lucas (Tom Holland) from dad Henry (Ewan McGregor) and Lucas' younger brothers. Brutally injured and completely lost, braving the hazards of an apocalyptic landscape, Maria and Lucas journey for help.
Bayona just can't sustain the sheer drama of the movie's first 50 minutes, in which the specter of sudden, overwhelming tragedy looms over Maria and Lucas. By the time the perspective shifts to other characters, the tension dissipates and "The Impossible" settles into a mundane narrative of white people seeking reconciliation, imbued with a phony uplifting sensibility that detracts from the Thailand tsunami's real story.