Meticulously crafted and essentially obscene, J.A. Bayona’s quasi-docudrama follows a British family vacationing in Thailand in the immediate aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Bayona stages the impact, which pulls doctor Naomi Watts away from husband Ewan McGregor and their three sons, with deafening immediacy. It’s effectively nerve-jangling — especially for parents — but the film treats its story of survival like an amusement-park ride, sticking close to its protagonists and reducing the native Thai victims to background color. (That the family this story is based on spoke Spanish, not English, adds insult to injury.) It’s a tremendous achievement, especially considering that the water effects were achieved without CGI, but it serves no purpose other than putting viewers through the wringer and, eventually, making them feel better again.
Meticulously crafted and essentially obscene.
City Paper Grade: D
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