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One Big Scene: A Mother's Love Versus Mother Nature in 'The Impossible'

Posted by Sean Oconnell on January 03, 2013


One Big Scene is a weekly column dedicated to spectacular visual sequences we’re recommending you see in the theater. If you have ones you’d like us to write about, let us know in the comments section.

Make no mistake: J.A. Bayona’s harrowing The Impossible doesn’t celebrate the devastating tsunami that washed away huge chunks of Southeast Asia’s island communities in 2004. And in no way does the movie trivialize the damage and loss that occurred in the wake of the tragedy. 
Where The Impossible excels, though, is in its presentation of the formidable human spirit … particularly that of a mother (Naomi Watts) trying her best to maintain normalcy in the face of lunacy so that her oldest son might reunite with his estranged brothers and missing father.  

The calm before the storm.

It is a touching, heartfelt and altogether thrilling movie that expands to more theaters on Friday, Jan. 4, and absolutely needs to be see on the big screen so that the impact of Bayona’s special effects can be appreciated. 
What critics are saying:
“The best picture of 2012.”
- Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune
“In the hundred-year history of cinema, few thrillers have been as emotionally compelling as The Impossible.”
- Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“The term movie magic should be reserved for scenes such as the one where the unflinching realism of the natural disaster is conveyed without a single false note.”
- Jordan Hiller,
What we are saying:
Hiller isn’t exaggerating: Bayona relies on cinematic magic to re-create the overpowering tsunami of 2004. And the visceral impact of the sequence conveys one important gut feeling that the victims probably felt during the actual event. While we are watching it, we fear it might never end, and we may never actually be given the chance to come up for air.   
The wave crashes over a resort where Maria (Watts) and Henry (Ewan McGregor) are vacationing with their three sons. As in real life, the wave is completely unexpected, and wholly devastating. It overwhelms everything in its path, and Bayona plunges his audience directly into the rushing currents alongside his characters. 
Once she’s able to break the surface of the water, Maria fights the rushing waters to try and retrieve her oldest son, Lucas (Tom Holland). The biggest problem? I mean, besides the rivers of ocean water sweeping them through broken villages? That would be the bus-sized debris that’s knocking the mother and son from whatever dry perch their fingers can dig into. 
The sequence redefines the term "breathtaking," and will have you unconsciously holding your breath, begging for Bayona to release you from his vice grip. It’s one of 2012’s most memorable on-screen sequences, and you need to check it out now that The Impossible is expanding to more theaters. 

Follow along on Twitter @Sean_OConnell and @Fandango

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