“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” commented Audrey Hepburn. Her quote is appropriate for director Juan Antonio Bayona’s disaster film, ‘The Impossible.’ In a sense, it is a horror film with the monster being a tidal wave. Based on a true story, the film is about one of the deadliest natural disasters in history. In 2004, a devastating tsunami hit several countries in South Asia that killed 230,000 people. The movie focuses on one family’s struggle to survive this catastrophe during a holiday at a luxury beach resort in Thailand.
The movie focuses on an English couple Maria (Naomi Watts) and Henry (Ewan McGregor) on a Christmas holiday in Thailand with their three sons. There is not a ton of backstory but it is a normal family dealing with the stresses of finances and living abroad. Henry works in Japan and is worried about job security and Maria is a stay-at-home mom who happens to be a doctor. The main criticism of the film is that it focuses on a white European family and not the thousands of locals that died in the tsunami. In fact, the family depicted in the movie is actually Spanish in real life.
The special effects are amazing. Most people are not aware how powerful and destructive a tsunami can be to a country’s coastline. When the tsunami hits the beach resort, it smacks the audience too. Watts’ performance is compelling. She literally goes through hell. She gets tossed around in the water like a ragdoll in a washing machine. Maria and her oldest son, Lucas (Tom Holland) are washed inland by the massive force of the water. As they fight to save each other, there is debris; dead bodies and even a car with a crying baby floating pass them. It’s an emotional sequence. It accurately portrays the strong bond between mother and son and their fight for survival.
One problem with starting a movie off with a deadly flood is that it is difficult to keep the tension building throughout the rest of the film. That is precisely what happens when the story moves to a refugee hospital. The film really loses steam in the third act. It’s not giving away spoilers to point out that Henry and the other two young boys go through their own journey of survival. It is a test of wills whether this family reunites with everyone alive. That’s the miraculous story.
What keeps this film on track is the stellar performance of Watts. She is a terrific actress. I’ve admired her talent since her debut film, ‘Mulholland Drive’ directed by David Lynch. Some of her film choices have not given her the opportunity to show her range. ‘The Impossible’ is one of those films that allow us to see how talented she actually is and The Academy agrees by giving her an Oscar nod for Best Actress this year. Therefore, the incredible opening tsunami sequence and the superb acting of Watts make ‘The Impossible’ worth your time.
‘The Impossible’ is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand 4/23/2013 http://theimpossible-movie.com/.