Written by Sergio G. Sanchez
Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona
Starring Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts and Tom Holland
On December 26, 2004, a series of horrifically destructive tsunamis struck many land masses touched by the Indian Ocean. Over 230,000 people were estimated to have died and nearly 1.7 million people were displaced during the events. THE IMPOSSIBLE, the first film from director, Juan Antonio Bayona, since his breakout, THE ORPHANAGE, and incidentally also his first in English, tells just one of those stories and, in doing so, provides one of the most emotional experiences I’ve had at the movies in quite some time.
Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts play Henry and Maria, father and mother to three young boys, all under the age of 12, on vacation in Thailand for the Christmas holiday. Dad is in the pool with the two youngest when the torrential tide starts to come in, while Mom is a few feet away with a book, and their eldest, a few feet further away getting a ball. Up until this point, Bayona has allowed us to spend a few moments with the family, to get to know them, even if just a little, so there is actually some connection to them that binds them to us when they are fighting for their lives. Then, he simply lets the natural horror unfold and before long we are immersed in devastation and desperation, and led towards salvation by two strong performances by McGregor and Watts.
THE IMPOSSIBLE is quite an apt title for this film. Not only is the experience this family endures an impossible one to survive, but making this film is in itself an incredible feat that should not have been possible either. With the Indonesian Tsunami not quite 8 year behind us now, this disaster movie could have literally been a disaster if it got anywhere near exploiting the events for the sole purpose of titillating the audience and manipulating our emotions. Bayona flirts with this fine line on occasion but for the most part, he creates an honest space that just allows this powerful story to be told and resonate with the sheer nature of its authenticity.