The Impossible: This review will save you $5,000 and a bucket of popcorn

Naomi Watts at the London Film Festival for the Eastern Promises premiere

(WACH) - Go ahead and cancel that tropical vacation you've been dreaming about, and skip the snacks at the theater concession stand. You wont be interested in either as you sit through The Impossible.

On Sunday December 26, 2004 a 9.2 magnitude earthquake, the third largest ever recorded, occured just off Sumatran coast and triggered tsunamis striking thousands of miles of coastline from Indonesia to Africa. The Impossible is the true story of the Belon family, enjoying their tropical Christmas holiday in Thailand when the unimaginable became reality. The parents and their three young boys are playing poolside at their oceanfront hotel when an unexpected 98-foot tidal wave devours the area in a matter of moments, washing the family members away along with hundreds of other hotel guests, local residents, trees, structures and anything else that once existed in the small Thai resort.

What separates this film from other disaster movies is the choice by director Juan Antonio Bayona to place the viewer in the midst of the devastation in what feels like real time. During the underwater scenes, I found it difficult to breathe. I could almost feel the battering of debris and the incredible strength of an ocean unleashed. My body had a physical response that I was not anticipating. By the time Naomi Watts, playing the mother Maria, emerges clinging to a tree, my appetite was ruined and my fresh tub of hot buttered popcorn went uneaten for the remainder of the film. The audience becomes literally so immersed in the destruction, that it has triggered physical PTSD responses such as involuntary teeth chattering and spontaneous weeping for some moviegoers.

The visceral images are compounded emotionally by the gritty performance of Naomi Watts. She's able to portray the fearlessness of a protective mother while simultaneously becoming more weak and vulnerable as the story continues. Her anguish is palpable and raw when she sees her eldest son washing past her as she makes a suicidal attempt to save and comfort him.

Ewan McGregor is equally battered and remains a source of strength until he makes a phone call home. Having to tell a family member what has occurred brings the father of three to the dark night of his soul. The triumph of McGregor's performance is a painful experience for the audience.

The movie continues with the unlikely task of locating victims, and families trying desperately to reunite with one another, not knowing if there is anyone to reunite with at all. The series of tsunamis triggered by the earthquake killed approximately 230,000 people and 1.7 million people became disaster refugees, so the idea of finding an entire vacationing family of five seems, well... impossible. The story is extremely accurate mainly because Maria Belon, the real-life mother was the writer along with Sergio Sanchez. She maintains that the only details that were changes was the depiction of the family as British (they were actually from Spain) and that the color of the ball in the film was actually yellow, as opposed to red. Given her amazing tale of hope and survival, I think we can let that slide.

Now, about that 5K. A roundtrip ticket from Columbia to Bangkok plus six nights accommodation will run you approximately $3,400 plus taxes, transfer and resort fees. Once you add on food, beverages, tips and entertainment you're looking at five large, easy. I wasted my whole tub of popcorn in a sympathetic anxiety melt-down.