The Impossible

December 26, 2004


15 January 2013| No Comments on The Impossible     by Sean Chavel


I admired it so much, but never felt it did a complete job. The Impossible is a technically accomplished re-enactment of the Thailand tsunami disaster in 2004, focusing on the survival story of one family, and yet concentrating a point-of-view most specifically on the mother (Naomi Watts), and second, the oldest son Lucas (Tom Holland). The husband (Ewan McGregor) disappears immediately following the tidal wave that sweeps them up like pick-up sticks, as well the two youngest sons (Oaklee Pendergast, Samuel Joslin). The early scenes have compelling realistic horror, the special effects so paramount that you foresee the helplessness before the tidal wave strikes. Standing on an upper deck wouldn’t help.

It starts out with an introduction of the Bennets, a British family of both typical happiness and worries. The prelude to the disaster is done very well, efficiently without doting too much on the family dynamic. Other filmmakers should study this movie’s prelude. Then the family is seen playing at the resort’s poolside on an early morning. There is a whisk of air that gets suddenly pungent (somehow you sense the foreboding). The electricity at the restaurant bar side stops. Intuitively to Maria (Watts), something is wrong. Only moments later, the impossible happens.

The torrent of water takes all of them in terrible, uncontrollable directions. But the camera follows Maria, who momentarily finds a tree as a buffer. Then a second tsunami comes, battering her and sweeping her away. She finds her son Lucas, and they find something of a raft (it’s a car hood? No, it’s a bedroom mattress.) The waves recede after punishing them for what feels like a long time. We have seen Maria sustain numerous injuries, Lucas less so. Lucas says something that implies he saw his father and brothers go down, and they are presumed dead.

Spoilers Alert. Much of the last half of the film takes place at the hospital, with Maria’s face discoloring from the trauma. She is informed that she will undergo surgery. Her diminished strength makes Lucas worry that he will lose her. To pass the time, Lucas helps other sons reunite with their fathers. Then the film shifts back to Henry (McGregor) and two boys whom are alive and on search to find his missing wife and son. Then we get a number of extraneous shots of Henry and Lucas just barely miss running into each other, which are impossible misses.

I used the word compelling already, which the movie sometimes is. But director Juan Antonio Bayona, who is talented, misses the big picture of the disaster that took 200,000 lives to focus too rigidly on one family. And a further mistake was to see the disaster through Maria’s eyes, what she saw as she was jetted underwater for a horrifying amount of time, but without showing us the other family members.

Now I wouldn’t recommend telling anyone to go out and see it. However, I wouldn’t stop anyone from going to see “The Impossible” if their hearts are set on it. I had my own faults with it despite admiration. The movie accomplishes so much, why didn’t it go for more?

107 Minutes. Rated PG-13.


Film Cousins: “The Poseidon Adventure” (1972); “The Perfect Storm” (2000); “Tidal Wave” (2009, South Korea); “Hereafter” (2010).


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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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