Since I'm a fan of disaster flicks in general, I was really looking forward to The Impossible, but I knew it was going to be different from all the other films because it's based on real events. And yes, it is terrifying, even when the director chooses to be overly theatrical. You know that this tragedy indeed took place and being faced with reality is really painful. In my humble opinion, the movie also should have been recognised for the heartbreaking, stunning visual effects, which were in my opinion essential to the film. Same goes for Ewan McGregor's performance: it's better than 80% of the nominated ones, I was especially moved by his breakdown in the telephone scene. I don't know what he has to do to finally be nominated.
Although I'd say Naomi Watts is leading in this film, she's definitely not the central character, since the story is mostly about the development of the oldest son, while Naomi Watts has to support him, while also trying to have an effect on her own. As you may remember, I wasn't very fond of Naomi's first Oscar nominated performance in 21 Grams, but other than that, I always thought she was a very reliable, talented, beautiful actress who gave a stunning breakthrough performance in Mulholland Drive. I think if she was fighting for great part as much as her good friend Nicole Kidman, she would also receive nominations more often. Instead, she chose a more subtle progress in her career and I'm sure that it was the right decision for her.
As many people said, dramatic intensity is almost a trade mark of Naomi Watts, which is exactly what a great disaster film needs. And the emphasis is really on "great" because we often tend to forget about acting in this genre (or at least we seriously underrate it), but then we should think about the likes of The Poseidon Adventure or The Towering Inferno. These movies worked because of how A-list cast was able to keep the tension, even when the story itself is paper thin. After all, disasters bring out the instinct of survival out of a person and you can't really follow the acting style of an Ivory-Merchant movie. You have to be shamelessly emotional, holding nothing back, which is actually a very difficult thing to pull off believably and that's probably why Naomi Watts was the perfect choice for the role of Maria.
The beginning of the movie is incredibly idyllic, with a seemingly alright family with usual problems and Naomi does a great job showing Maria's desire to go back to work and change in her life. It's a sort of typical exposition to the disaster that develops a connection between the main characters and the audience and Naomi is especially effective. She (along with her co-stars) wonderfully builds up the tension to the big tsunami scene. The movie and the actors play one of the easiest and most manipulative games with the viewer: you know what's coming, the characters don't. Therefore, sometimes I was baffled if the effect was because of the performance or the story, but for most of the time I didn't even have doubts that I was affected by the great performances.
After this, Naomi's part is only demanding physically and she doesn't have to care about building up the development of the character. Her only task is to keep up the intensity in every scene, which she solves quite easily, actually. Still, it's impossible not to be moved by her work: Maria is trying her best to survive for the sake of her son is just incredible. She doesn't get obvious Oscar scenes like Ewan McGregor so she had to make do with her own opportunities: desperate looks, screaming and her character floating between life and death. She doesn't follow Emmanuelle Riva's dignified way, Naomi's performance becomes no-holds-barred after the tsunami and yet she was able to solve this much better than she did in 21 Grams (in my opinion).
The problems come when her character is in the background. Unfortunately, her screen time is not enough to completely keep up that intensity throughout the film. Mostly she just lies on a hospital bed and has gruesome physical reactions (the make-up was also amazing) and suffers but after a while she pales a little bit in comparison with other story lines with more active characters and emotional scenes. I was quite sorry about this because with more scenes and a more development in the character, she would have been able to bring the house down and give a truly earth-shattering performance that would make me admire her performance as much as her fellow Hollywood actors.
To sum up, Naomi Watts gives a really effective performance in The Impossible, which may not have blown me away, but I was still impressed by it. She does the best she can with her character and has a lion share in making the movie as dramatic and devastating as it really is. I just feel that besides the physical and dramatic part, there wasn't much going on with the character and that's probably the reason why she's not more of a contender for the actual award. I just wish there was more focus on her character and then she could have been a shoo-in for Oscar's and my own vote. Still, a powerful and intense piece of work that deserves a
What do you think?