Impossible, The


Swimming the Tsunami

Main Cast: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland

Director: Juan Antonio Bayona

Everybody has seen TV coverage of a tsunami.  Japan in 2008, the devastation unimaginable. Indonesia and Thailand in 2004, the coverage not as detailed, the massive destruction not quite as widely seen.  In 2012, those of us sitting in our living rooms while people on the other side of the world were washed away got the chance to gain just a little more perspective on the reality that is a tsunami thanks to the amazing film The Impossible.

Based on the true story of one family, The Impossible takes place in Thailand during the Christmas holidays of 2004.  British mother Maria (Naomi Watts) and Scottish father Henry (Ewan McGregor) have taken their kids on vacation to a gorgeous, brand new resort on the coast of Thailand.  They’re having a magical vacation one moment, the next they are swept away by a wall of water that devastates the entire coastal area in a matter of minutes.  Maria manages to surface in the raging waters along with their eldest son, 12-year-old Lucas (Tom Holland).  The two are swept along by the filthy, debris filled water, barely managing to survive.  They assume that Henry and the

Naomi Watts by Caroline Bonarde Ucci

Naomi Watts

other two boys, 7-year-old Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and 5-year-old Simon (Oakley Pendergast) drowned at the resort when the first wave hit.  The movie follows their desperate search for help after the wave recedes, leaving behind a dangerous, desolate, debris and body filled nightmare.

The Impossible is a Spanish production, filmed in English.  Based on the true story of Maria Belon and her family, writer Sergio G. Sanchez and director Juan Antonio Bayona set out to recreate a set of very real horrors.  Most disaster movies have huge wads of cash for their massive special effects, but not so for The Impossible.  The filmmakers were tasked with creating a tsunami on a budget.  It shouldn’t have worked out as anything but B-movie schlock.  But somehow, this cast and crew manage to put together one of the most riveting, shocking and realistic disasters ever put to film.

The movie starts beautifully, the gorgeous tropical setting feels warm and inviting and real.  The tsunami comes with no warning, more devastating and frightening than any TV footage from far above.  We watch as our characters are overcome by the first wave, then watch Maria and Lucas struggle to stay above the raging waters as a second wave hits.  The special effects are remarkable – visceral and terrifying.  Imagine a body being flung down a river filled with buildings, trees, cars – crashing

Ewan McGregor by Georges Biard

Ewan McGregor

against entire villages that have been destroyed and submerged, leaving behind untold numbers of bodies, projectiles and fixed obstacles.  It’s a phenomenal sequence – the first of many.

Naomi Watts garnered an Oscar nomination for this performance – a well-deserved nomination.  Her Maria holds the film together, seriously injured and trying to keep Lucas safe and by her side.  The very real danger of separation is ever present – with disaster comes mass confusion, families torn apart and survivors left wandering through a wasteland looking for safety and loved ones.  Watts is battered and broken and does not portray Maria as superhuman; rather she lets her scream in pain, rely on her young son and weaken despite her determination not to leave him an orphan.  Young Tom Holland is spectacular as Lucas, relatively uninjured but terribly frightened and traumatized, even as he manages to bring some happiness to other survivors at the overcrowded, chaotic hospital.  Ewan McGregor and the other little boys are also outstanding.

The Impossible is one of those movies that, for reasons unknown, failed to achieve the status it rightly deserves.  The story itself is amazing, the performances are bold and raw and brilliant, and the filmmaking is simply extraordinary.  5 stars out of 5 and a very strong recommendation for The Impossible.

photos by Caroline Bonarde Ucci and

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