“The Impossible” is the true story of a family in Thailand who were swept up in the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, the deadliest tsunami in recorded history, while on vacation. However, some some major artistic licenses are taken with this
cinematic version. The real family that experienced the incident is Spanish, but the film instead casts British/Australian actress Naomi Watts and Scottish actor Ewan McGregor as an Australian married couple hoping to enjoy a family vacation with their three sons.
Regardless of the changes, awards buzz is building for Watts because of her performance as Maria, and she may deserve an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Most of the film focuses on Watts, as she plays the bloodied and battered mother of three. Through the film, she fights to stay alive through the pain and chaos of the tsunami so that her son Lucas (Tom Holland) still has a guardian, as her husband Henry and two other sons are nowhere to be found.
However, McGregor also delivers a strong performance as a truly devoted father and husband, shining in one particularly powerful scene. While in the company of a few survivors, he has the opportunity to call his father on a cell phone and bursts into tears as he explains the situation. The audience can truly relate to Henry in this dire situation, just as anyone can relate to a moment where they have been unable to hide the emotions they have kept bottled up.
Strong character moments, such as one between Maria and her son Lucas as they search for refuge and save a little boy along the way, create an emotionally engaging film. In other circumstances the emotional moments might feel contrived, but the story’s basis in reality makes for a sympathetic experience.
The visual effects also impress to a great degree. The entire sequence when the tsunami first hits is breathtaking, heartbreaking and incredibly chilling as the family is swept up in a monster wave of brown water, trees, cars, demolished house parts and furniture. The imagery of Maria’s slashed leg, her coughing up blood and debris and the unearthly color that her skin turns are particularly affecting in this sequence.
Holland, who is almost receiving as much acclaim as Watts, also commands a great deal of the story. While his acting begins a bit heavy-handed and with forced emotions, his character eventually steps up as one of the leads of the film, erasing his rocky start and proving he possesses serious talent.
Aside from minor issues — the film only seems interested in the plight of this family, even though the tsunami killed hundreds of thousands of people — “The Impossible” is a tale of great emotional and sensory impact, with truly authentic performances by the whole cast.
Ife Olujobi is a staff writer. Email her at email@example.com.