By Steve Greene | Criticwire April 24, 2013 at 12:59PM
For a director whose debut film, "The Orphanage," garnered both critical acclaim and legitimately disturbing scares, "The Impossible" seemed like a curious follow-up project for Juan Antonio Bayona. As a result, this tale of a family displaced after the December 2004 tsunami that ravaged Thailand left some audiences expecting a story of triumphant uplift confused by a horror film (and vice versa). Either way, it made for a noteworthy addition to a particularly dour slate of holiday movies.
Among critics, "The Impossible" turned out to be one of the more polarizing releases of not just awards season, but the entire year of film. As you'll see below, some writers praised Bayona and his central cast for maintaining both a sense of dread and a ray of hope in the face of, well, impossible circumstances. Others, though, took issue with the film's tonal approach. The Critics Split, which you can see on every film page and in the bottom right-hand corner of the Criticwire homepage, shows as many D and F grades for "The Impossible" as A's. That wide spread of feedback is perfect source material for our Pull Quote Matching Game.
As we did with our first version of this game for "Killing Them Softly," we've scrambled a number of pull quotes from critics' reviews, ranging from raves to flat-out pans. How good are you at spotting how those reviews and grades match up? All of these reviews match up to a different grade on the A+ to F scale. The answers are on the next page.
The Pull Quotes:
"Still, there are passages when Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona ('The Orphanage') calms down and is able to starkly capture the process of being reduced to a feral state, following its characters as they navigate rough terrain while bleeding from gashes of various sizes. 'The Impossible' is thin and often offensively simplistic, but it still finds time for stretches when it doesn’t seem like a bad idea."
"Watts takes on the burden of her ordeal with masochistic conviction, bellowing to the heavens and wearing each bruise and gaping leg wound like a badge of honor. Talk about a disaster movie."
"Director Juan Antonio Bayona and writer Sergio G. Sanchez combine visual effects in this film that are doubly effective because they strive to do their job without calling undue attention. It is a mark of great acting in a film when it succeeds in accomplishing what it must precisely when it is required."
"'The Impossible' may not contain great intellectual depths, but it contains great depths of feeling, and it mixes spectacle and emotion so that both heighten the other... [it] marks the difference between sentiment and earned emotion, a distinction too few critics bother to make anymore."
"A cool ten minute tsunami disaster scene. The rest is an emotional downpour."
"The movie is essentially a raw nerve that pulses with ragged emotions from terror to despair, empathy and relief. Each of these actors offers a capable, physical and committed performance, but unfortunately none of it is enough to give 'The Impossible' focus or a driving momentum."
"On the whole, 'The Impossible' is a superb example of the “man against the elements” film, driven by the panic that sets in when one family member fears never seeing the others again. With that as his starting point, Bayona deftly pushes the audience’s buttons."
"Unlike some films that have become critics' darlings, 'The Impossible' has no pretensions. It isn't edgy and I don't think it has a hidden subtext. It's just a beautifully told, enormously moving story of a family's experiences during and after the 2004 tsunami that hit a holiday resort in Thailand. Shorn of the contrivances we associate with Hollywood disaster movies, 'The Impossible' recreates an unthinkable event and its aftermath with breathtaking --and heartbreaking -- credibility."
"It's a shame [Watts'] ailing character is largely confined to the sidelines during the less impressive second half, a stretch that culminates with a series of coincidences so laughable, they belong in a vintage screwball comedy instead. 'The Impossible' has enough going for it to earn a mild recommendation, but it's unfortunate that it ends up self-destructing as rapidly as one of those 'Mission: Impossible' messages."
"Watts is wonderful; some of the supporting performances waver… 'The Impossible' levels the playing field of fundamental human need and behavior, often revolving around luck that we have no control over whatsoever."
"'The Impossible' is a film which resides heavily in the camp of dictating emotions to the audience for reciprocation."
Got your guesses ready? The answers are on the next page.