Movie Review: “The Impossible” – Unbelievable True Story

Written by Emily McWilliams February 10, 2013

Film still from The Impossible
“The Impossible” is based on one family’s true experience surviving the massive tsunami that devastated parts of Asia on boxing day in 2004.  Writer Sergio G. Sanchez and director Juan Antonio Bayona used this story to frame the international scale of the disaster and the vast amount of people who were affected, as well as the personal details of the Bennetts .  On the periphery of the Bennetts’ story are constant reminders of the number of people affected from the overcrowded hospitals to trucks full of bodies heading for mass graves.  It is the small details that accompany every shot that contribute to the film’s accurate representation of the disaster, even when the script is overwrought with sentimentality.  The film features  Ewan Mcgregor and Naomi Watts in an Oscar-nominated performance for Best Actress.

A true story of survival

Henry and Maria Bennett (Mcgegor and Watts) are on vacation in Thailand with their three young sons, Lucas, Thomas, and Simon, when the tsunami hits.  In the midst of the confusion and power from the wave, Maria and her eldest son Lucas are swept in one direction, with no knowledge of what has happened to Henry, Thomas, and Simon.  When Maria and Lucas are able to get into a tree for safety, both are bruised and injured.  Maria has a serious leg injury that prevents her from walking and needs medical attention.  Villagers are able to help Lucas and Maria get to the nearby hospital that is unable to handle the amount of people in need.  A triage system is in place and supplies are running low.  Meanwhile, Henry and the two youngest sons have survived but have no idea where Lucas and Maria are.  The family must navigate a country destroyed by the wave with no forms of communication to find each other and get home safely.


Film brings you into disaster

The representation and recreation of the disaster and its after-effects are so realistic they hinge on the verge of unbelievable.  I’m sure many people remember watching footage on the news when the tsunami happened, but in “The Impossible” the film makes you feel what it would have been like to actually go through this experience.  From the force of the wave completely demolishing a luxury resort, to the chaos and confusion of thousands of people looking for friends and relatives, this film is an unflinching look at what really happened.  To know that this is based on a true account, makes this at times, even harder to comprehend.

Strong performances from young actors

Naomi Watts has received a lot of attention in this film for her performance, including a Golden Globe nomination and an Oscar nomination.  Her performance is good, but also typical in many ways.  I would say that she is this year’s obligatory “woman overcomes natural disaster” nominee.  I was more impressed with the actors who portrayed the young sons in the film.  Particularly Tom Holland who portrayed the eldest son, Lucas.  Holland displayed maturity and strength in his role, which was a refreshing change from the Disney roles we usually see actors at his age in.


“The Impossible” knows how to tug at our hearts and use emotion and sentimentality to get the audience invested in the movie.  It is a well-done film in terms of pacing, structure, and recreating the disaster, but at times it was a little too melodramatic to be really effective.  Still, “The Impossible” is worth checking out for a different look and experience of what happened when the tsunami hit.

My Rating: 7/10



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