Film Review: The Impossible

It would perhaps be doing Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Impossible a slight disservice by placing it in the disaster movie genre but that is, in effect, what it is.

Raw Emotional Power

With terrifying realism, The Impossible tells the story of the real-life Indian Ocean tsunami which devastated South Asia in 2004. The fact that over a quarter of a million people lost their lives during this terrible natural disaster lends even more raw emotional power to the film’s main story thread of a family torn apart.

Young married couple Maria and Henry, played by Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, are on a luxury family vacation in Thailand with their three sons. It isn’t long before the beauty of their surroundings is suddenly, and viciously, torn apart by a terrifying tsunami, the after effect of a huge earthquake in Sumatra. The appearance of the tsunami is quick and without warning, lending a real, foreboding air of authenticity to proceedings.

Harrowing Authenticity

The main thread of the film’s story from this point concerns the family’s bid to be reunited. Separated during the tsunami’s impact, Maria and eldest son Lucas find themselves cut adrift of Henry and the two younger sons. Naomi Watts gives a wonderful, emotionally charged performance as Maria, who suffers pretty horrendous injuries but who never gives up hope of seeing her husband and her other two sons again.

The focus on human emotion and the crushing impact the South Asia tsunami had on ordinary people’s lives is what separates The Impossible from standard disaster movies which tend to concentrate on action and huge special effects. As already stated, the natural disaster in The Impossible was all too real and to turn the story of this infamous occurrence into a big-budget adventure would somehow be disrespectful to the people who lost their lives.

With only his second major feature, Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona proves what an immense talent he is behind the camera, with a work of sometimes harrowing power.

Picture: Carlos E. Santa Maria