The Impossible (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner02/01/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 103 mins

Impressively directed and superbly written, this is a powerfully emotional drama with a trio of terrific performances from Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and young Tom Holland.

What's it all about?
Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage), The Impossible is based on a true story and stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor as Maria and Henry, a married British couple (though in reality a Spanish family, the Alvarez Belons) who are vacationing in Thailand with their three young boys, Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast) in December 2004. When the Indian Ocean tsunami hits their resort on Boxing Day, the couple quickly find themselves separated amidst the ensuing chaos.

Maria and Lucas manage to stay together as the torrent hits, but Maria is badly injured in the process and Lucas is forced to try and find her some medical treatment. Meanwhile, Henry manages to find the two younger boys and the three begin a desperate search for Maria and Lucas.

The Good
Naomi Watts is terrific as Maria, delivering a powerful performance that is at once intensely physical and achingly vulnerable. McGregor has the less challenging role in physical terms, but he pulls off some powerfully moving moments, particularly in the scene where he tries to hold it all together while passing around a phone with some fellow survivors. In addition, young Tom Holland (whose performance largely anchors the film) is excellent as headstrong Lucas, forced to suddenly acquire a measure of adult responsibility, while Joslin and Pendergast are both superb as Thomas and Simon.

The special effects during the tsunami sequence (apparently shot within a giant water tank) are extremely impressive, heightened by Oscar Faura's assured camerawork. On top of that, Bayona pulls off a number of devastatingly emotional scenes, as well as some skilfully put together sequences of the various family members just missing each other that would seem to indicate the director spent a lot of time watching Lassie Come Home (the sine qua non of movies about people looking for and repeatedly just missing each other).

The Bad
That said, The Impossible isn't entirely without flaws: for one thing, the acting and dialogue before the wave hits is excruciatingly bad, most notably during a gratingly false-sounding conversation between Watts and McGregor's characters about whether or not they shut the door properly while they're on the plane. Similarly, while it's understandable that the film concentrates on the story of a single family, the net result of that is that you don't get a sense of the full scale of the tragedy, in which almost 300,000 people were killed.

Worth seeing?
The Impossible is a well made, powerfully emotional drama that pushes all the right buttons. Bring a tsunami's worth of tissues. Recommended.

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The Impossible (12A)
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Content updated: 24/10/2017 10:35

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