Some vacations are more relaxing than others.

Theatrical Release Date: 12/21/2012 (limited)
Director: J.A. Bayona
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast
Rated: PG-13 for intense realistic disaster sequences, including disturbing injury images and brief nudity.
Runtime: 1 hour, 54 minutes


Use the Force, Obi Wan.

First of all, you should know I’m writing this before I see “The Impossible”. Why am I doing so? For a couple of reasons, actually. One, I think it’s fun to see just how good I can be at predicting the course and outcome of a movie based solely on the trailer. More importantly, when it comes to this trailer, it’s so laden with SPOILERS that I wondered if there even was a point to watching the full-length feature.

So here’s what I have to say about the movie based on its 2 minute, 32 second trailer:

The film is based on a true story about a lovely looking family happily on vacation in Southeast Asia in 2004. The huge tsunami that devastated the region that year hits and they’re washed away and separated, the two little boys with Dad (Ewan McGregor) and the oldest boy with Mom (Naomi Watts). We’re told 45 seconds into the trailer, “This is one family’s true story of survival”. At this point, we already know how it ends and of course they’ve cued a stripped down version of U2’s “One” to start tugging at the heartstrings.

Then we find out that Dad is going to spend the movie searching for Mom and the other son, who were helped to a shelter by caring locals in the back of their truck. She’s in bad shape but tells the boy to spend their time there helping others, which he goes and does – even helping one man find his family who are strewn about the shelter somewhere. Dad is closing in, tearfully telling over the phone what is probably his wife’s family that he will find her. We then end the trailer with some shots of the two main characters reunited.

So what have we learned? Well, if you were worried this would be a downer and one of the white people who make up the main characters would die in the Asian tsunami, your worries can stop now. I mean, what’s the point of watching a fictional movie about such grave and tragic material when you’ve already eliminated the ultimate consequences?

Judging from the trailer, Ewan and Naomi deliver excellent, heart-wrenching performances and share a lovely chemistry. Their kids are precocious and exhibit the kind of resiliency and strength of character that one only wishes they could instill in their own offspring. The production quality is excellent and the tsunami sequence will be hard for some people to watch due to its authenticity and the knowledge of its impact.

Now that I’ve seen the whole thing, I’m both happy and sad to say that I was completely right. The movie is good but if you can glean everything important that happens in a 114-minute feature in the 2 ½ minute trailer, why is anyone wasting two hours of their life and spending $38 dollars to do so? I don’t mean to be quite so rude to what is otherwise a decent film but in being so careful not to dissuade the ever-growing population of moviegoers who don’t appreciate the notion of a movie taking them by surprise, it’s lessening the impact this can have on those of us who are looking for a heartfelt story with the possibility of poignancy and loss.

For those out there who find this kind of predictable human-interest tale up your alley but only want to see it because the ending will be happy and safe, go ahead and see it. Enjoy getting what you think you’re going to get. If you’re like me and don’t see the point in having your predictions proven right only to lose two hours better spent retooling your fantasy football team or building Lego, then skip this and do something more useful with your time.

3.5 out of 5