Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: The Loneliest Planet vs. The Impossible, two films featuring getaways gone awry.
PremiseThe Loneliest Planet stars scruffy indie heartthrob Gael Garcia Bernal and Hani Furstenberg as an engaged couple whose saccharine mutual infatuation may be compromised during an adventurous backpacking trip through the Georgian mountains.
Based on a Spanish family’s experiences during the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, The Impossible presents Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts reuniting (they starred in Stay in 2005) as Maria and Henry, a vacationing white couple who have lived through the devastation that hundreds of thousands did not. We know from the trailer that Maria, Henry, and their children survive; the plot, then, follows their frenzied quest to find each other.Advantage: The Impossible
SuspenseThe Loneliest Planet trailer begins by introducing us to Alex and Nica, who are young, in love, and about to embark on a game-changing backpacking trip through the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia. Scenes of flirtatious face-licking, beard-caressing, uplifting Georgian folk music, and stunning mountain landscapes are soon replaced by the quickening of breath, jarring transitions, and a foreboding question: “What would you do if the one you love became a stranger in an instant?” The trailer doesn’t reveal what happens, but we know there’s been a misstep that cannot be undone and now threatens the punch-drunk face-licking and beard-caressing happiness of their relationship. With the absence of heavy dialogue, the viewer is forced to focus on the subtle actions that define the film, adding to the suspense (of the trailer, at least).
The Impossible is a dramatic thriller based on true events. Because we know-no spoiler alert necessary-that the family ultimately survives the tsunami, the suspense is mostly derived from the mayhem following the disaster and watching the family reunite rather than the question of whether they survive. However, the juxtaposition of an idyllic beach in Southeast Asia and the destruction of a natural catastrophe is jarring—especially, of course, because it actually happened.Advantage: The Loneliest Planet
SentimentalityThe Impossible relies on survivors of the tsunami as movie extras, which certainly brings another element of authenticity to a story already based on true events. Also, the emotionally charged cover of U2’s “One” playing as Ewan McGregor looks into his son’s bright blue eyes tugs at our heartstrings, along with the trailer’s tagline, “Nothing is more powerful than the human spirit.” Because we aren’t sure what actually causes the irreparable riff between our leading couple in The Loneliest Planet, we can’t fairly predict the emotions we may (or may not) feel.Advantage: The Impossible
DirectorsThis is the third film by Russian-American director Julia Loktev, whose last film, Day Night Day Night, debuted to critical acclaim at Cannes in 2006. She has a proven knack for beautifully and subtly capturing the essence of humanity, and we’d like to see how she accomplishes this with a Georgian backdrop in The Loneliest Planet. As the director of the Spanish horror film The Orphanage, The Impossible‘s Juan Antonio Bayona is not a total stranger to the thriller genre; but Julia Loktev has piqued our interest.Advantage: The Loneliest Planet
Cinematography The camera shots set the anxious mood of the Loneliest Planet trailer just as much as the music and minimalist dialogue do. The understated stillness of the beautiful landscapes evokes a sense of impending uneasiness: the calm before the storm, or the love before the heartbreak. Similarly, zooming aerial shots of the tsunami’s dirty water swallowing the beautiful landscape of Southeast Asia are simultaneously beautiful and distressing, mimicking the core storyline of The Impossible.Advantage: The Loneliest Planet
The VerdictThanks to the trailer, we’re far too curious for the reveal of the mysterious irrevocable action that threatens to end Alex and Nica’s relationship than to watch a movie whose ending we already know. Does this make us bad people? Winner: The Loneliest Planet
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