A powerful recollection of the 2006 tsunami, starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts
It is hard to recall a film with the raw, visceral impact of The Impossible. Inspired by true events from the 2004 tsunami, it recreates the sense of nature being unleashed with astonishing verisimilitude. Buildings crumble and individuals become like rag dolls pulled along by a fierce current that twists their limbs and smashes their bones like a cruel puppeteer. Lives are lost in an instant and the viewer is overwhelmed by the bravura filmmaking of director Juan Antonio Bayona.
Bayona made The Orphanage and The Impossible is no less haunting or atmospheric thanks to his ability to match astonishing technical virtuosity with edge-of-the-seat emotional impact. It is undeniably voyeuristic which may leave some viewers with qualms but only the hardest heart would remain unmoved by what he achieves.
The tale begins on Christmas Eve, 2004 when Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their three sons arrive at Khao Lak in Thailand for the Christmas holiday of a lifetime. The fact that we know what is about to happen marks their happiness with a palpable dread. When the tsunami hits, Maria and eldest son Lucas (Tom Holland) are swallowed up and spat out, badly injured and clinging desperately to the hope of life.
What follows is a harrowing celebration of the human spirit and the will to survive. McGregor has rarely been better, Holland is terrific as the tenacious Lucas and Watts invests her character with stoicism and selfless heroism. It is perhaps worth noting that the family whose story inspired the film were Spanish and not quite as good looking as their screen counterparts. It is a minor issue in a major film.
General release from Tue 1 Jan.