Itís impossible to watch this movie and not feel the angst of this
vacationing family who suddenly got caught up in the giant tsunami that hit
Southeast Asia in 2004, caused by the huge earthquake in the Indian Ocean.
What seems strange, in this era of media over-communication, was how much this
natural disaster seemed to take everyone by surprise. There is no warning
here. There is no indication what kind of time lapse there might have been
between the earthquake and the tidal wave which roared onto the beach of this
bucolic Thai seaside resort. It seems like somebody would have sounded a
warning, maybe? Instead of everyone just suddenly being carried away by the
Director Juan Antonio Bayona concentrates on this one family, Mom (Naomi
Watts), Dad (Ewan McGregor), and three sons, Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas
(Samuel Joslin), and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast). Theyíre hanging out by the
pool one calm, clear, sunny Sunday morning when suddenly this gigantic tidal
wave from the ocean crashes in on them. First, everyone is immediately
submerged, and fighting to swim to the surface. Then, itís a matter of
trying not to get so swept away by the strong current as to get hit by random
things like telephone poles, or floating automobiles. Then, itís trying to
find something to hold on to until help arrives.
Mom and her oldest son somehow find each other in the maelstrom and stick
together, but she is seriously injured, and he doesnít know how to help her.
Eventually, some natives stumble upon them and deliver them to the emergency
medical care, set up like an enormous tent city, with thousands of people
milling about, desperately trying to find each other, and beleaguered medical
workers doing the best they can with limited staff and resources and
Meanwhile, Dad has survived, with barely some scrapes and cuts and bruises,
but heís lost the rest of them. Impossibly, he finds his two younger sons,
who were together hanging on to a tree, but he leaves them in the care of
unknown others so he can look for Mom and Lucas, a snap judgment that even
those around him questioned at the time.
Impossibly, the whole family finds each other, Mom gets her surgery, and they
all survive. But of course, there were many who didnít.
Director Bayona does spend some time playing with the CGI in re-envisioning
the climactic moment when the tsunami hit, but mostly, this is about what
happened in the devastation afterwards, and this one family trying to re-unite
amidst the ensuing chaos, against all odds. In that way, itís heartwarming
and numbing at the same time. But this one is all drama: no lighthearted
moments, no comedy, no romance, just continuous grim post-apocalyptic
survivalism. Many viewers seeking lighthearted entertainment will not thrill
to this prospect, but this disaster movie is convincingly made and delivered
with an unrelenting intensity.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephenís Presbyterian Church, Irving,