Today I review a 2012 film set during and after the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. Based on a true story, it’s sure to tear at your heartstrings…
Directed by: J.A. Bayona
Written by: Sergio G. Sánchez
Starring: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland
Runtime: 113 minutes
Age Certificate: 12
Release: October 11th, 2012
Boxing Day, 2004. A day that shall forever be remembered as the day the unexpected happened: the 3rd largest earthquake ever recorded triggers the largest tsunami on record. 10-metre waves hit south-east Asia with incredible force and affected millions of families across the world.
The Impossible is the remarkable true story of one family in a million. The ordinary, middle-class Bennet family are on holiday over Christmas, staying in a resort in Khao Lak, Thailand. Their world is turned upside down and torn apart, and this is their impossible story of how they beat the odds; how they survive.
Any story is always better when it is a true one. The Impossible undoubtedly proves that rule. Any realistic disaster movie is made so compelling for the audience if they can relate to it, and if the story is based on truth then that goal is even more successfully reached. In a way, The Impossible is the story of every family caught up in the Boxing Day Tsunami; or, more broadly still, the story of what the experience would have been like for every family when placed in that situation. The difference is, of course, that this is one lucky family.
The story is a straight-forward one, and is not what makes the film excel. However, it doesn’t need a great ‘plot’ to be interesting- it’s interesting in the fact that it fits in that golden category: it is true. The magic is behind what is done with that story.
The acting in this film is brilliant. There are five principle characters: Maria Bennet (Naomi Watts), her husband Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their three sons (Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oakley Pendergast). Watts and McGregor give realistic and often frightening realisations of their characters- two scared, separated parents with a single goal of uniting their family. Tom Holland, who plays Lucas, the eldest son, also gives an astounding performance as a brave young boy burdened with a heart-breaking task.
The other big selling point of this film is the effects. Any film re-enacting a 35ft tsunami is likely to be CGI-heavy, and this film pulls it off spectacularly. There is no sign of the approaching threat for the first 15 minutes of the film, so naturally you are on edge, waiting for the inevitable to happen. Yet, despite this, the speed and ferocity of it shocks and scares you still. It is brutal. This realism factor really adds a lot; it turned a good film into a great one. The rest of the underwater sequences are also brilliantly realised, giving the audience a fully immersive experience. It’s easy to forget that it isn’t just the sheer power of the water you are up against, it’s the debris as well. Short but graphic underwater scenes really drive home how lucky these people were to escape with their lives, let alone each other.
As in all great films, the situation exhibited in the story often has a much greater meaning, a much more general one. Despite the film being frightening, heart-breaking and often tear-jerking, it is ultimately uplifting and almost poetic. It’s a story of human resilience and our instincts of survival. It’s a story of courage, bravery and endurance. But most of all, and most importantly, it is a story that teaches us the importance of family, and the love that drives it.
So, is it worth watching The Impossible? Definitely- but it is impossible to watch without shedding a tear or two towards the end…