The Impossible, 2012.
Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona.
Starring Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and Tom Holland.
The story of a tourist family in Thailand caught in the destruction and chaotic aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
When The Impossible hit cinemas earlier this year, the hype surrounding it was insane. Not only where there reports of people fainting while watching it, but there was a lot of hubbub about the change in the protagonist’s nationality. With the film now hitting DVD shelves, the questions now are – does the film hold up without the ‘cinema experience’ and, does it really matter that the family is British?
Based on true events, The Impossible tells the story of a tourist family who sadly were caught in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and split apart from each other. The movie then follows this separated family as they ride along an emotional journey of survival and hope.
Before I address the two questions I posed earlier (unprofessional of me I know), I just want to note that this is a stunning movie with some outstanding performances, beautiful visuals and breath-taking scenes of heartbreak. I would like to profess that I am not one for crying at movies (but E.T and Up would testify under oath that I am) but this was an emotional journey that I have never been taken on in all my years of watching movies. It is an incredible story, and all the more incredible that it’s based on truth.
Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts both put in stellar performances that will yank at your heart strings, but it’s the young Tom Holland who steals the show as the eldest son Lucas. The role demands an impactful performance that many young actors might have buckled under, but Holland gives the role the weight it truly needs as the character that goes on the most moving journey.
But let’s address the two key points I raised earlier. Firstly, does the film stand up without ‘cinema experience’? While I can’t imagine people will be fainting left, right and centre without the aid of Dolby blaring out of the massive speakers, what makes The Impossible such a great movie is the story and performances – not the special effects. If this was a film that relied on its effects to blind you into thinking it’s good (like Avatar) I would argue the point, but here it’s moot. Nothing is lost in the horrific tsunami scene and nothing is lost from the acting.
And, as you have probably guessed, I don’t think the change of race is a big issue. David Bishop wrote a phenomenal piece earlier this year on the subject and put it better than I ever could, but the fact remains that – like the lack of surround sound – The Impossible lives and dies by its strong leads and touching story. Even if the performances hadn’t been so good, I would have only argued that the actors needed a change over, not the ethnicity.
I think I’ve gushed enough. The Impossible is a masterpiece in filmmaking that will stay with me for a long, long time. It’s powerful, moving and just utterly brilliant. If you’ve got the nerve to stay through the hard to watch scenes you will be rewarded with one of the best movies released this year. You may not faint, but you’ll certainly cry.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is one of Flickering Myth’s co-editors and the host of the Month in Review show for Flickering Myth’s Podcast Network. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.