The Impossible is an emotional powerhouse of a film by director Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage). The movie focuses on the Tsunami disaster that rocked Southeast Asia on December 26, 2004, by telling the unbelievable story of a family who was there.
What’s so great about Sergio G. Sanchez’s script is that he’s basing it directly off María Belón’s story (who is played by Naomi Watts in the film). So while there are definitely some artistic liberties taken to push the dramatic tension in the latter half of the film, it’s still astonishing to watch what this family went through in order to survive this horrific nightmare.
There’s also about 15-20 minutes where we’re introduced to the Belón family as they fly into Thailand, get situated at the resort they’ll be staying at, and spend some quality time with one another over Christmas day before Henry (Ewan McGregor) starts his new job placement there. Right from the start we’re given a countdown of sorts, knowing the tsunami hits on Dec. 26, and watching the days quickly tick by for this family, so that when Christmas is over and the following day begins, we know everything is going to change for this family forever.
Even with this being the case, Bayona and his film crew did such a spectacular job recreating the tsunami, as well as the events that followed that it’s absolutely horrifying to imagine what it was like for those who were actually there. Soon after the first wave hits – taking out the entire resort – Maria and her son Lucas (Tom Holland) are sent spiraling underwater and through the streets, wherever the waves take them. Maria manages to grab onto the trunk of a tree, and it’s here where she’s able to hear Lucas call out to her as the current sweeps him away.
Maria lets go of her salvation and lets the water take her away as she attempts to rescue her son. After some intense moments, the two finally do find one another and they begin their arduous journey back to the resort in hopes to find the rest of their family. Not so long after they begin, they finally are able to get out of water and onto land, and this is where Lucas sees that his mother is brutally injured.
For some reason, it never fully occurred to me that when people were being swept through the streets with the current that there were unimaginable amounts of debris and cars and whatnot underwater that in such an event turn into deadly weapons. When Maria steps out of the water, we see that the flesh on the back of her calf is completely hanging off of her leg due to an injury she sustained underwater earlier without even realizing it. It’s graphic, and it’s hard to see; however, it’s what this person actually went through, and it shows that even when the initial threat of the waves subsided, many people weren’t clear of danger yet.
To coincide of Maria and Lucas, midway through the film we’re taken back to the resort, where we meet up with Henry, and their other two sons Thomas (Samual Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast), who also survived the ordeal. Neither side knows the other is alive, and like many during this time, had no way of contacting one another. So while on Maria’s side of things she tries to survive her injury with the help of her eldest son, Henry embarks on a journey to find them both by scouring every hospital and shelter in the area in an attempt to find them – which in itself is no small feat.
The Impossible is incredibly powerful, which is made all the more so due to its being a true story. It’s said when writing that many great stories can be based off of true events in one way or another, and while a fictional tale of the tsunami could likely have been told, none would have come close to being as powerful, and emotionally uplifting as a story told by those who lived it.
As mentioned above, there’s definitely some filmmaking manipulation going on at times – especially during the third act – to help make the story even that much more dramatic. It’s done so well, however, and the story itself is just so incredible that it’s excusable for the most part.
Watts was up for a Best Actress Oscar for her role in this film, and it’s not so hard to see why. Her work in The Impossible is quite the harrowing job she has to do to pull it off, and she does so superbly. Her chemistry with Holland (who makes his feature film debut here) is spot on, and the bond they formed while filming clearly transmits through to their work on-screen.
McGregor is also fantastic, and he really has such a great ability to tap into his emotional side that it makes his work as a man looking for his wife and child, not knowing whether or not they’re even still alive, that much more heartbreaking. The two boys he works with most, Joslin and Pendergast are both wonderful as well, especially for their young age. The casting for the film as a whole was perfectly done.
Bayona really delivers a beautiful tale of love, survival and the strength of the human spirit. This is an experience that one can’t even begin to imagine, yet Bayona and his crew really capture the power of this force of nature, and the effects it had long after the waves had subsided. However, it’s the waves and the Tsunami scene itself that really showcase Bayona’s talents. Using minimal CGI, Bayona had both Watts and Holland right in the middle of a debris-filled wave pool of sorts, and it looks physically intense. The idea to put them right in the midst of something terrifying in itself (albeit nothing close to as scary as the real thing, of course) helped make their performances that much stronger, and the scene that much more intense overall.
The Impossible is a film that shouldn’t be missed. This is the story about a family who wouldn’t give up on one another, and did everything they could do to reconnect after a disaster that destroyed countless lives. It’s a beacon of hope, and a tale of just how strong people can be in even the most ghastly of circumstances.
The video transfer of the Blu-ray is really well done. Early on the film is bright and vivid, especially when the family arrives at the beautiful resort in Thailand. This is captured incredibly well to contrast with just how dirty, dark and brown things get once the tsunami has come and gone. The audio is spectacular, and one will really benefit from a surround sound set-up for this one.
Audio Commentary with director J.A. Bayona, writer Sergio G. Sanchez, producer Belen Atienza and Maria Belon – This commentary has the special addition of Maria herself talking about her experience, and various aspects of the film that happened to her family. There’s also some great technical talk about how the Tsunami scene was accomplished, which is also touched on visually in another feature; however, this is worth a listen if you want to know more about the film and the story itself.
Casting The Impossible – This featurette runs at under seven minutes in length and basically touches on how Watts and McGregor were the first choices to play the characters they portray. It also touches on the bonds formed on set, as well as how great the child actors chosen for the film were.
Realizing The Impossible – This featurette focuses on the special effects in the film and runs at just under six minutes in length. The main focus here is how they recreated the Tsunami, and how they destroyed the resort itself. It’s brief, but really interesting to see the wave pool they created and threw their actors into…quite terrifying indeed.
Deleted Scenes – There are a handful of deleted scenes, none of which are vital to watch, but check them out if interested.
The Impossible is a film heartfelt film that really pulls on the heartstrings multiple times throughout. There’s no preparing for an event like this, and to witness the bravery and strength of this family (and know that many others went through this as well) is simply inspiring.
Summit Entertainment presents The Impossible. Directed by: J.A. Bayona. Written by: Sergio G. Sanchez. Starring: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Samual Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast. Running time: 114 minutes. Rating: PG-13. Released: April 23, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: ewan mcgregor, Naomi Watts, Tom Holland