The Impossible is a remarkable film based on the true story of a Spanish family who were holidaying at a beachfront resort when the tsunami hit and devastated much of Southeast Asia as a result of the Boxing Day earthquake of 2004. It’s a harrowing but remarkable tale of survival and human nature, and is without a doubt one of the most engaging experiences of this cinema-going year – I’m fairly certain that at least half in attendance at my screening were an emotional wreck by the end. Indeed, The Impossible is one of the year’s best movies, hard to watch at times but absolutely riveting and deeply powerful.
There’s not much to say about the plot aside from the fact that a family of five (who aren’t Spanish in the movie) are on a Christmas vacation and enjoying a relaxing swim in their hotel pool when the tsunami suddenly hits. There’s no warning. No time to flee. J. A. Bayona (The Orphanage) directs the disaster scenes as realistically as possible. In comparison to the over-the-top nonsense of apocalyptic films like 2012, the brutal intimacy of the tsunami shown here is terrifying. You really get a sense of what it would have been like to have been helpless before such a force of nature; for all intents and purposes the world might as well have been ending for those who were there.
The wife of the family, Maria, is portrayed by Naomi Watts (J. Edgar). She’s gravely injured and ends up with eldest son Lucas (Tom Holland). Holland carries himself extremely well in what’s a very demanding role, even if he doesn’t always quite reach the high dramatic mark required of him. Separated from these two are husband Henry (Ewan McGregor; The Ghost Writer) and youngest sons Thomas and Simon.
While Watts should be a shoe-in for a Best Actress nomination, McGregor should equally be a hot contender in his field too. Both actors give exceptional performances, with a notable phone call by McGregor’s Henry that’s sure to break even the most ardent of hearts. The Impossible doesn’t so much tug at the heartstrings as it plays a concerto with them, and by the time the whole thing was over I was in somewhat of a daze. It’s an astonishing piece of work, all the more potent because of its basis on fact and because it is actually possible.
The Impossible tells the true story of a family who were on holiday when the 2004 tsunami hit. It’s an intense, moving film that’s liable to leave you an emotional wreck – it’s also one of the year’s best.