As the news emerged that a film would be portraying the events of the 2004 tsunami, The Impossible was already met with doubts that it may be too soon.
However, fears that the film may be tactless or glamorised can be diminished, as director Juan Antonio Bayona creates a sensual experience that envelopes the audience within the story of a family caught in the turmoil of the infamous Boxing Day tsunami.
Based on the accounts of a Spanish family, The Impossible follows the relocated and renamed British Bennett family as their Christmas holiday to Thailand is overturned by the giant wave, separating the mother and son, Maria (Naomi Watts) and Lucas (Tom Holland), away from the father (Ewan McGregor) and the youngest boys Thomas and Simon. In the aftermath, they begin their emotional journey to try and find one another.
What makes The Impossible so extraordinary and engrossing are the performances, pivoting around Naomi Watts, who justifies her Academy Award nomination as a character who struggles to keep going with a surplus of injuries. In addition, Tom Holland is sublime as the 14-year-old Lucas, who has to take control and get his mother to safety. And this acting ensemble is completed with Ewan McGregor, whose performance as a doting husband and father is quite extraordinary, providing many tear-jerking scenes. The emotionally raw and painful moments that these thespians convey are powerful, and that they manage to connect with the audience is a significant part of the films success.
Furthermore, what is so astonishing about The Impossible is that it is based on a real story, a fact that remains touching from the offset. It is hard to fathom that this story really happened and affected so many. Criticism that the film chooses to portray only a British family within a global disaster is too harsh, as the film provides a respectable and captivating account of the wider conflict. While the Bennett family are the protagonists of the film, the focus constantly widens to show the destroyed country, and the valor and kindness of the Thai people who helped the victims and the survivors of the tsunami.
The realism created is where the magnificence of the film lies, and is key in portraying the tale of the Bennett family and so many others. The technical aspects of the film are amazing. For instance, submerging the audience into a tidal wave by use of sound creates a disturbing yet remarkable depiction of the tsunamis destruction. Footage of survivors being swept inland by the wave, in addition to multiple scenes of devastation, is distressing, but the scale of filmmaking on display is quite incredible, and equally commendable.
Overall it is very clear that The Impossible is a global story. While following the main family, it also shows how the wave affected everyone, and that it is a story not just of nature, but of humanity.