The Impossible

© 2012 Ray Wong

As the title suggests, The Impossible chronicles the ordeal of a family during the 2004 Tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia, and how they defied the impossible odds to survive and find one another.

Henry (Ewan McGregor), Maria (Naomi Watts) and their three sons Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast) are vacationing in Thailand from Japan for the holidays. Maria has temporarily quit her job as a doctor to care for the three boys, while Henry is on the verge of losing his lucrative job. But all of their problems seem to suddenly disappear as they face the unthinkable when a tsunami hits their vacation villas.

Maria is seriously hurt but manages to reunite with Lucas. Together they help each other survive until nearby villagers rescue them. Soon, they are taken to a local hospital which is teeming with injured survivors. It's when they realize how much the tsunami has destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of people, including visitors like them, have their lives completely changed. Meanwhile, Maria and Lucas believe that Henry and the other two boys are dead. Clinging to each other, they must keep on living as Maria's injury is threatening her life.

Meanwhile, Henry and the boys have survived, against all odds. But Henry holds on the belief that Maria and Lucas are still alive, and he sends the boys to the mountain shelter while looking for his wife and oldest son. The search seems impossible, and the odds of ever finding them -- alive, no less -- become more and more impossible as days pass.

Naomi Watts (J. Edgar) gives a tour-de-force performance as Maria. Her suffering is difficult to watch, and often she has no dialogue, just her facial expressions and body languages to convey her pain, anguish, and love for Lucas. It is a tremendous performance. Ewan McGregor (Salmon Fishing in the Yemens) does a good job, too,  but in an odd way his is the least impressive.

Most impressive is Tom Holland (The Secret World of Arrietty) as Lucas. The boy has some serious acting chops and holds his own against Naomi Watts, as they share the most screen time together. The chemistry between the two is incredible, making us believe in the bond between them as mother and son. The two other boys, Samuel Joslin and Oaklee Pendergast, also impress with their innocent and no-frill performances that just make our heart ache. Geraldine Chaplin (The Orphanage) lends her regal appearance in a heartfelt scene.

Written by Sergio Sanchez (The End) based on the true story of the Belon's family, the story is rather straightforward and heavy on coincidences. The filmmakers understand how implausible it may seem, and rely on our suspension of disbelief that it is all about fate. How one can survive something like that -- not to mention the entire family. How impossible it is for the family to reunite after being separated by such devastation. The theme is all about fate and coincidence, and they play up some of the impossible events, mostly due to the limit of trying to tell the story in such a short time.

The lack of significant dialogue is offset by many sequences of intensely emotional scenes and actions. Under Bayona's (The Orphanage) direction, the movie is gripping, intense and frightening. The tsunami scenes are some of the most realistic I have ever seen, and they truly impress. While sometimes overtly sentimental and sappy (a line that Bayona crosses even as the story itself is emotional -- I think he could have toned that down without sacrificing the emotional impact), the film includes many haunting images with stunning performances from the stars as well as the background actors.

The Impossible is an emotionally gripping, intense story that hits us with the full force of tsunami waves. Despite its occasionally sentimental flaws, it is impossible not to be affected by this movie.

Stars: Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts, Geraldine Chaplin, Tom Holland, Martha Etura, Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast
Director: Juan Antonio Bayona
Writers: Sergio G. Sanchez (based on Maria Belon's story)
Distributor: Summit
MPAA Rating:  PG-13 for intense realistic disaster sequences, brief nudity
Running Time: 114 minutes 


Script - 7
Performance - 9
Direction - 8
Cinematography - 9
Music/Sound - 8
Editing - 8
Production - 10

Total - 8.0 out of 10.0 

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