I remember watching Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter last year. The tsunami scene was amazing, and then the movie just slowly kept going down hill. This film has an amazing tsunami scene, and we get pulled into the emotional true story of a family trying to survive it.
Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona, on his second film after the well-received The Orphanage, recreated the tsunami scene powerfully. You see people in the water, and get that same feeling you had when you first saw Jaws.
The British family on vacation around Christmas in Thailand (isn’t that the place that usually comes to mind in December?)…and it isn’t without some controversy. It’s a true story, yet the nationality of the Spaniards was changed. This means we see the very Caucasian (and talented) Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, and their three kids.
Knowing that it’s based on a true story, you might find yourself bothered by some of the scenes that are clearly done for dramatic effect; McGregor just missing his son in a few scenes, etc. If you don’t roll your eyes at those scenes, you’ll enjoy this gripping melodrama. Some of it worked in that regard – the bratty teenager on the flight over being mean to his brother – really steps up when he helps his mom, or when he helps strangers in a hospital that just want to track down family members.
We also think about how much easier it is in emergencies to have a cell phone handy. Yet you don’t realize that, when your phone is washed from your body by a 50 foot wave, others aren’t so quick to lend you theirs. After all, their battery only has a little juice left and they’re waiting to hear from their families.
You’re also watching this movie, wondering about the hundreds of thousands of other folks that are glossed over to show us this one family.
There was one edit where Watts is going in for surgery, and they show how she acquired all the injuries while being tossed around like a rag toll by the vicious waves. That felt a bit like I was watching an episode of MASH — or a Spielberg movie.
There really wasn’t much to this screenplay, but the overall film was quite moving. It’s such a harrowing experience for a family, and the kids will break your heart.
A bit of praise should go out for Tom Holland as the Lucas, the teenager. His performance was outstanding, and I’d love to see him snag an Oscar nomination for it.
This gets 3 stars out of 5.