The Impossible defines powerful and emotional storytelling in film. It is a gut-wrenching true story told in a suspenseful and thrilling way which captivates from beginning to end.
The Impossible is the true story of one of the families who fell victim to the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. This film pulls no punches. The emotion is raw, the action is intense, and the performances are moving.
The Impossible is a story of human survival and the bond of family in the face of tragedy. It follows the family in the aftermath of being caught in one of the most destructive natural disasters in history. As with every film that is “based on a true story”, there are some aspects which I am sure were exaggerated for dramatic effect. The difference here is that every moment of this film is believable. Every struggle and every moment. It is because every moment feels real-to-life and presented with such an unflinching honesty that the emotion cuts so deep.
Every actor shines in this film. Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting, Star Wars Episodes 1-3) and Naomi Watts (King Kong, 21 Grams) put in Oscar worthy performances, but it is young actor Tom Holland who gives the tour-de-force. Holland’s performance isn’t great because he is a child, it is just simply a great performance. He deserves a nomination, without a doubt. Holland spends most of his screen time along side Naomi Watts and steals every scene. They say acting is reacting and Tom Holland puts the viewer there, in the moment, each time, responding in a truthful and gripping manner that sinks you right into the middle of his plight. The emotion is so raw you feel it as if you were experiencing it yourself.
All of the child actors in this film put in solid and honest performances. Credit must be given to both the actors and director J.A. Bayona. He managed to take very young, inexperienced actors and pull an engaging and moving performance from all of them.
The Impossible takes little time getting to the tsunami event which grounds the film. This sequence is heart racing and captivating. When Clint Eastwood’s snooze-fest Hereafter came out, critics applauded it’s presentation of a tsunami disaster. Hereafter has nothing on The Impossible. With films like The Avengers and The Life of Pi in competition this year, it is hard to say The Impossible has any chance of getting a VFX nom, but it absolutely deserves to. The VFX execution is subtle but flawless and deserves a mention, even if only in this review.
I’ve heard the criticism that this film won’t appeal to a wide audience due to its graphic presentation. I would be inclined to agree, however, J.A. Bayona’s execution of this story is handled in a white-knuckle fashion that has you holding on at every turn. In the same way films like Cast Away find a mainstream groove, so will The Impossible if given the chance.
Despite the potential for wide success, not many people have heard of this film. This is one of those films that will need word of mouth to help bring it to the mainstream. It is a deeply affecting film, a human story, that will resonate with audiences if they get a chance to see it. See it and spread the word.
One of Bayona’s previous films, The Orphanage, is one of the best horror films I’ve seen in years. That talent for building tension and a taut, intense atmosphere, is definitely carried over into this film. In fact, much of the crew and creative players from The Orphanage helped to create this film, including the writer, cinematographer and composer.
I cannot recommend this film enough. It is a strong, dramatic piece, but one that I think any film goer will find a rewarding journey to take. Take that first step and see The Impossible.