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Naomi Watts plays a Spanish wife and mother, Maria, who struggles to survive and reunite her family after a tsunami.
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BY SUSAN KING
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES--The tsunami sequence in the new film "The Impossible" is so terrifying in its intensity that you might believe you're watching actual documentary footage of the natural disaster that struck Southeast Asia on Dec. 26, 2004, killing hundreds of thousands.
The verisimilitude is the result of more than a year's work of exacting planning-- and experimentation--by director Juan Antonio Bayona and his visual- and special-effects supervisors, who used a giant water tank in Spain (the largest in Europe), a sprawling miniature of a beach resort, on-location shots in Thailand and some computer wizardry to create the 10 minutes of terror.
"The Impossible," a drama of faith and bravery based on the real-life experience of a Spanish family, stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor. They play a husband and wife, Henry and Maria, who are on vacation with their three sons in Phuket, Thailand, when the tsunami hits their hotel.
"The whole film was about a true story," said Bayona, "so it had to feel very real."
Bayona began story-boarding the sequence two years before filming began. He enlisted visual-effects supervisor Felix Berges and special-effects supervisor Pau Costa, who were involved in the project for more than a year.
To prepare, Berges traveled several times to Thailand, but because almost everything had been rebuilt since the disaster--including the resort where the Spanish family stayed--he found images and footage of the actual tsunami to be more helpful in his design of the effects.
'NOT A BIG WAVE'
He spent hours upon hours watching footage of the disaster. "Everybody has an idea of the tsunami of being a big wave," he said. "It is not a big wave. It is a huge amount of water that comes to land."
Though the team studied other films and found what Berges called "some very good examples of CGI water," they decided to use the real thing for "The Impossible."
"I was almost 14 months on the project, because we never had done anything like this [in Spain], so we really had a lot of tests," said Costa.