One of the most reliable ways we’ve devised of making sure a movie will be affecting, engaging, and able to jerk tears out of its audience members is to base its story off of a real life tragedy. And, in the 2004 Indonesian tsunami, direct Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage) has picked himself a doozy of a tragedy to set his latest film, The Impossible, during.

The tsunami, which was generated by a massive earthquake off the coast of Sumatra on December 26 of that year, caused massive damage in 11 countries, killing 150,000 people and leaving millions more homeless in the blink of an eye. The Impossible takes a look at how one family (made up of Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts, and three young boys) gets unexpectedly swept up into the destruction, find themselves separated, and have to try desperately to find their way back to one another.

As you might imagine, this one looks like it’s probably going to be an emotionally draining experience. Just in this trailer alone we’ve already got tears, screaming, slow-mo, and sad covers of U2 songs…who knows how many other melodramatic tricks this movie has up its sleeve? Of course, the danger with films like this is that they sometimes overplay their hand, trying too hard to manipulate a reaction out of the audience and robbing a premise that’s naturally rich in drama of resonance in the process. But one has to think that hiring a couple of actors as skilled as McGregor and Watts for your leads is a great first step toward making sure your material is presented exactly as it should be.

So, what do you think? Clearly The Impossible is going to be gorgeous to look at, and it’s sure to contain a couple of great performances, but is it going to be just too much drama and sap all piled together to really resonate? Or does it look like its going to hit all of the right notes and be a sad and beautiful look at the human cost of a natural disaster? There’s no room for it come down anywhere in the middle. Choose now!

The Impossible opens on December 21st. [Apple]

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