t h e i m p o s s i b l e
1st January 2013
Juan Antonio Bayona
Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor
The Impossible is the remarkable true story of the Alvarez Belóns, a Spanish family of five who not only all survived the Boxing Day tsunami in Thailand but also managed to find each other amidst the chaos and despair.
"Everything looks perfect from far away" sang Postal Service, not so much up close. This is the feeling you get watching the new and improved Hollywood version of the Alvarez Belóns, The Bennetts, in The Impossible. The film begins onboard a turbulent flight (in business class) where nervous flyer Maria (Naomi Watts) reassures her worried husband Henry (Ewan McGregor) that they definitely left the alarm on at home. Their three boys, Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast) are arguing about who sits where, there are palpable tensions. They reach their extremely luxurious Thai resort and although things relax, there are still tense signs, Henry is worried about losing his high paid job and a page keeps defiantly flying from Maria's book in an almost a fairy tale-esque fashion. Whilst the family are round the pool on Boxing Day things start to become strange, the ground begins to shake, terrified birds soar and swoop overhead and then – the wave hits. The family are divided and we follow Maria and Henry on their amazing survival quest and join Henry and the boys later and the family eventually re unite but with Maria nearly dying.
Scripted by Sergio G Sánchez and directed by JA Bayona of The Orphanage, The Impossible is a real life fairy tale of the unbelievable becoming reality and how courage and hope sometimes really can result in what seems like a miracle. The scene of the wave hitting is truly remarkable and terrifying and will leave the audience reeling; it is well handled and incredibly effective without reducing the event to spectacle. I felt the first twenty minutes of the film could have been better handled to allow the audience to develop stronger feelings for the family, particularly towards Watts’ character Maria whom I felt nothing for. I felt a little bewildered at their affluence being shoved down my throat constantly - does the fact they flew business class, stayed in a big resort and had high paying jobs mean they deserved more sympathy? What was the point of spelling this out? The story is such a powerful one that even with its flaws it is going to affect emotionally, I cried a huge amount through this film but I am a mother and what happened to people during this time was incredibly harrowing, I feel the actual events may have been more of a catalyst for the tears than the filmmaking.
It is also interesting to note that even though the majority of victims were Asian we see hardly any Asian faces in the first twenty minutes of the film. Tom Holland is fantastic and a real find, for me he was one of the strongest things about the film. McGregor's scenes with the kids are also very real and he gives a likeable performance. One of the last shots in the film is the lines of body bags, a reminder that stories like these were unfortunately few and far between.