Thailand is crushed under an immeasurable December, 2004 tsunami, victims in its path including five Americans vacationing in a tranquil resort. Impact is vicious, captured for the sake of film with actual water, not digital waves, creating uncontrolled and harrowing scenes of real and metaphorical survival.
The Bennet’s are an average family, a couple (Maria & Henry) with two pre-school sons and another nearing his teens, Lucas, beginning a small rebellion against their authority. This backdrop creates familiar characters, their framework typical with financial concerns and job security trouble, elements even this glitzy paradise cannot hide.
Surface level elements established, The Impossible pushes to create hell, a devastated landscape of floating bodies, drowning infants, and flesh slicing debris. Maria and Lucas reach for each other as they perilously rush down the wave, splitting and joining as the film rises tension within the terror. Impossible offers no breaks, a second wave pushing onto shore, battering the already maimed pair. Emotionally defeated at the potential loss of their loved ones and losing blood to grisly injuries, this powerful motherly figure and growing child form a bond.
Impossible will push on, Maria and Lucas discovered by native passer-bys, taken to a hospital succumbing to overcrowding. This tale of survival becomes a search, frantic and confusing as people are inadvertently separated with no means of contact. Outside, body bags pile up, and rusty trucks take them to makeshift graves. Images are unsettling without the need for outrageous glimpses of torn bodies. These are powerful visuals.
Landscape recreations sweep the camera around, mixtures of physical and computer generated sights, proving compelling against the previously established luxury of the resort. Impossible speeds into its spectacle and emotion-driven disaster, yet pursues such careful construction of reality, its work pays off in alarming desolation.
Impossible poses the disaster movie’s challenge and answers it: How do you make an audience care for such a small slice of the random population while millions are dead or dying around them? The solution is one of desire, a desire to live and push on with the most basic of human needs. Maria’s fight, coupled with a struggle against infection, is inherently enthralling to any person. Its brief fall into contrivances is more than forgivable.
Self-indulgent critics love these movies, the type conducive to box splattering quotes like, “A triumph of the human spirit!” Impossible simply lends itself to the audience in that capacity, giving critical text a free ride into cliché. Those words are applicable for the spirit of a nearly shattered family who fought through the inconceivable, now able to have their story told to the world via remarkably capable actors. This is stunning cinematic work. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Movie]
The Blu-ray appearance of Impossible is memorable for its reference class contrast, spitting out some of the brightest, sunlight-drenched exteriors that never push too far. All of the light is utilized for extensive detail, peering from the actors’ skin in close or from afar. Bound with equally high class black levels, the creation of strikingly deep images will catapult these images into the peak of video quality tiers.
Sharpness and definition never sway from from the impact of Summit’s beautiful encode. Managing a slim grain structure without ever making its existence apparent, the richness of this film stock is allowed to breathe in this compressed digital form. There are no intrusions on the source, free of aliasing or artifacts which is incredible considering the enormity of the tsunami itself.
Texture will pour from the disc, close-ups rarely this consistent or this richly presented. Even the youngest members of the cast benefit in front of the lens, signs of stalwart cinematography. Landscapes, before or after the disaster, are outstandingly rendered for virtual miles into the horizon line.
Color saturation will skip from one element to the next, often gracious with its island-esque warmth while toning down for dramatic weight inside hospital walls. Flesh tones are not afflicted with unnatural oranges, maintaining stable, natural tanned hues. Impossible will jump certain primaries to wash the screen with earth tones, although never leaving a colorful base that draws the eye towards its beauty. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Video]
Sonically, the tsunami will prove sterling, a genuine rush of audio adrenaline that towers over characters while submersing the listeners. Ushered in with an unnerving rumble in the subwoofer, the burst of disturbed ocean toppling the land, flowing over into the surrounds. Clanging of debris is spaced across the soundstage, while cries for help will peak out over the pure loudness of the roaring wave.
Impossible is not ruled out past its surge, bowing ambiance within the suffocatingly crowded interiors of overwhelmed hospitals, search helicopters a common item passing into the positionals. A return to the wave late will introduce some of the most spectacular sound simulations of being underwater, generous in their persistent motion. Summit’s DTS-HD effort is a certain winner for its replication of horrifying events in a way only the best audio can provide. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Audio]
A four-way commentary track pulls in director Juan Antonio Bayona, writer Sergio G. Sanchez, producer Belen Atienza, and survivor of the events, Maria Belon. Two short, generally promotional featurettes focus on casting and recreating the events, the latter showcasing the actual water shots with actors being blast by simulated waves. Five deleted scenes and a trailer reside here as well. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]