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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Naomi Watts
Ewan McGregor
Tom Holland.
Directors
Juan Antonio Bayona.
Screenwriters
Sergio G. Sánchez .
Running Time
114 minutes

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The Impossible
Harrowing, honest and heartbreaking


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Plot
The story (based on fact) of a family torn apart in the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami. As Mum (Watts) lies injured in hospital, Dad (McGregor) and older son Lucas (Holland) battle to reunite the brood.


Review
The Impossible
Browse more images »
Although Clint Eastwood’s regrettable Hereafter touched on the subject, it’s surprising that it’s taken eight years for a major feature film to centre on the events of December 26, 2004, when a series of giant tidal waves killed over 200,000 people across multiple South Asian territories. Perhaps producers previously thought it was too soon, or perhaps no filmmaker had the technical acumen and wherewithal to realise a natural disaster unimaginable to anyone who wasn’t there. Enter gifted Spanish upstart Juan Antonio Bayona, who made an auspicious debut with his 2007 ghost story The Orphanage. It was a stylish effort, but couldn’t prepare us for the astonishing sensory assault of this very different breed of horror film, which evokes the crashing, crushing impact of the tsunami in a ten-minute sequence of unparalleled effects work and bone-rattling sound design. This may be a Spanish-made production, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s the work of Hollywood’s spiffiest studios; Señors Cameron and Spielberg should be looking nervously over their shoulders.

The human drama within this riveting reconstruction is similarly jolting but somewhat less sure-footed, beginning with the questionable approach to matters of ethnicity. The screenplay is based on the true story of the Spanish Belon family, flung far apart when the wave hits their Thai beach resort. But for all the highlighting of the word “true” in an opening title card, they’ve mutated here into a blondly British clan. It’s a needless change that plays uncomfortably into Hollywood’s cultural homogeneity, as does the narrative’s emphasis on holidaying Westerners at the expense of Asian victims. At least the change was made to accommodate actors as committed and sympathetic as Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor. Ditto 16 year-old Tom Holland, a remarkable discovery as the stroppy eldest son tasked with tracking down his dad and brothers as his critically injured mother languishes in hospital. All three leads find an appropriately high emotional key to match the brute force of Bayona’s technical wizardry, resulting in a blockbuster that should have your heart pounding and breaking at once.


Verdict
You can take issue with its overly Anglicised approach to an international tragedy, but there’s no denying that this rousing, superbly acted, no-holds-barred melodrama is a mighty feat of physical filmmaking.


Reviewed by Guy Lodge

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Impossible
Empire Star Rating

"Close your eyes, think of something nice."

It's overly sympathetic at times and the story, although true, suffers from a smidgen of convenient intervention, but all flaws aside, The Impossible is an involving, deeply felt and distressing human drama. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by movienut707 at 15:41, 08 October 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Pain, bravery, hope and happiness

wanted to watch this film for a long time, the home rental release dates got pushed back and back for months, even my clued up local rental store did not have any good information on when it would finally get released finally? we get to watch it. The first 1/3rd of the film was a stunning technical achievement depicting the horror of a tidal wave, and the brutality inflicted on anyone who got in its way! but the other 2/3rds of the film seemed to reduce, to a glorified version of B... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by hampstead bandit at 22:43, 05 June 2013 | Report This Post


Pain, bravery, hope and happiness

This film was moving because we follow a story of family's fight in this tragedy as if we were with them. It's very realistic and certain scenes are really awful, especially concerning the mother's injuries. Spectacular lets its place to emotions : sadness, happiness, hope, pain... OK some scenes are unbelievable in real life - the last part of the movie - but that is not the most important. This movie shows a family who did the impossible thanks to their faith, hope, will and solidarity of unk... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by June Tales at 09:13, 25 May 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Harrowing, emotional portrayal of a devastating event

Watched this yesterday. Thought it was good. Excellent cast-even the child actors, which I can sometimes find annoying-are really good. And Naomi Watts really gets put through the shit. ... More

Posted by drews at 16:40, 19 May 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Harrowing, emotional portrayal of a devastating event

Over 200,000 people killed... but what makes it really tragic is that some Westerners were killed. ... More

Posted by Clingfilm at 12:31, 18 May 2013 | Report This Post


Harrowing, emotional portrayal of a devastating event

I finally watched the film. Naomi Watts gives quite possibly her finest performances to date, portraying harrowing desperation, stubborn determination in the face of incredible pain and agony, and, ultimately, a sense of love and care despite her deteriorating state. True, she is bedridden for about half the film, but it is during this time where there are these small moments of tenderness and humility which undoubtedly makes Watts's performance one of the best of the year. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by MovieGoodfellas at 13:13, 14 April 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Naomi Watts

The Impossible is probably one of the most exhaustive cinema experiences I’ve ever had. It is a relentless emotional assault which leaves you equal parts drained and fulfilled. The story centres on the Bennett family who arrive at a Thai coastal resort 2 days before the devastating Boxing Day tsunami hit and their subsequent separation and attempt to relocate each other following the disaster. Naomi Watts gives an outstanding physically gruelling performance as the family’s mother Maria fo... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Biggus at 00:32, 16 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Naomi Watts

L: Dannybohy L: Normal Control Does Naomi Watts go nude in this (she's usually an eager beaver onscreen)? If so, I may grab a hotdog and watch it. ou see her left boob!! es, we get the 'brief nudity' as described by the BBFC, but I'd be lying if I said it was in the most erotic of contexts!e just got back from watching this - we don't get to the cinema a huge amount nowadays but my wife wanted to watch this (fair enough as it's normally something I want to see that we watch!)... More

Posted by Super Hans at 18:10, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


waves of tears

Sorry for the pun, but I was in floods of tears. Sooo moving. Thought Watts' Oscar nom is generous, especially since she spends most of the movie hospitalised. McGregor doesn't put a foot wrong. Most surprisingly, the move affecting scenes come from the film highlighting the wider effects of the disaster. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tysmuse at 22:07, 28 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: The Impossible

I agree with others who've said that the script wobbles a bit. I find it hard to believe that children that young would say some of the things they said. Otherwise, an incredibly powerful film full of believable performances. Mcgregor's breakdown over the telephone broke my heart, and young Tom Holland displayed real vulnerability, especially when he saw the extent of his mothers injuries. A heartbreaking film that, along with United 93, will go down as one of those excellent films th... More

Posted by Hood_Man at 18:20, 13 January 2013 | Report This Post


The Impossible

'The Impossible' is a movie that must be watched with your family. Emotional moments are in heap where you realize how much important is the family for you. A movie that makes you to hug your loved ones !! Detailed Review Here: http://www.filmwaves.in/2013/01/the-impossible.html ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ajm1991 at 14:55, 12 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

I have to agree with this view of the film. It is technically astounding, but when you find yourself wondering 'how the hell did they do that?' whilst the film is still in progress you are clearly not engaging emotionally with the characters. This is because the script is a bit clunky, and some things that happen are not really understandable. There is also the point that you kind of know the end before you see the film. Also, there is no real mention of the devastation to the local populatio... More

Posted by GCH at 09:41, 10 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: horribleives That's a shame - when I first read about it that's exactly the kind of thing I was expecting. The whole changing-the-nationality-of-the-family thing doesn't sit right with me either but I'm hoping it's not enough to marr what still sounds like a powerful film. n fairness, it's really down to you. A close friend of mine based in Spain for example was profoundly moved by it - despite its Hollywood tropes and its fundamental changes to the Spanish family the story bas... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 16:02, 09 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Dannybohy Boring, yes! but not ill-informed ou mean you've actually presented a coherent case to why you personally don't like his stuff as opposed to simply lampoon others for digging his work? Good for you... ... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 15:55, 09 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: horribleives L: Dannybohy L: Qwerty Norris Very hard to fault the production design & young Holland is absolutely fantastic, yet it suffers from that inherent problem of trying to dramatise & extend the commercial viability of a real life tragedy which for me compromised the depiction. Some plot contrivances which can only exist in the world of mainstream cinema (the hospital scene near the end) and an overly manipulative score did nothing other than remove this vi... More

Posted by Dannybohy at 14:41, 09 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Dannybohy L: Qwerty Norris Very hard to fault the production design & young Holland is absolutely fantastic, yet it suffers from that inherent problem of trying to dramatise & extend the commercial viability of a real life tragedy which for me compromised the depiction. Some plot contrivances which can only exist in the world of mainstream cinema (the hospital scene near the end) and an overly manipulative score did nothing other than remove this viewer from the plight of t... More

Posted by horribleives at 14:35, 09 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Qwerty Norris Very hard to fault the production design & young Holland is absolutely fantastic, yet it suffers from that inherent problem of trying to dramatise & extend the commercial viability of a real life tragedy which for me compromised the depiction. Some plot contrivances which can only exist in the world of mainstream cinema (the hospital scene near the end) and an overly manipulative score did nothing other than remove this viewer from the plight of the characters and remi... More

Posted by horribleives at 14:31, 09 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Qwerty Norris L: Dannybohy L: Qwerty Norris Very hard to fault the production design & young Holland is absolutely fantastic, yet it suffers from that inherent problem of trying to dramatise & extend the commercial viability of a real life tragedy which for me compromised the depiction. Some plot contrivances which can only exist in the world of mainstream cinema (the hospital scene near the end) and an overly manipulative score did nothing other than remove this view... More

Posted by Dannybohy at 14:10, 09 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Dannybohy L: Qwerty Norris Very hard to fault the production design & young Holland is absolutely fantastic, yet it suffers from that inherent problem of trying to dramatise & extend the commercial viability of a real life tragedy which for me compromised the depiction. Some plot contrivances which can only exist in the world of mainstream cinema (the hospital scene near the end) and an overly manipulative score did nothing other than remove this viewer from the plight of t... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 12:46, 09 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Dannybohy L: Qwerty Norris Very hard to fault the production design & young Holland is absolutely fantastic, yet it suffers from that inherent problem of trying to dramatise & extend the commercial viability of a real life tragedy which for me compromised the depiction. Some plot contrivances which can only exist in the world of mainstream cinema (the hospital scene near the end) and an overly manipulative score did nothing other than remove this viewer from the plight of t... More

Posted by tftrman at 09:38, 09 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Naomi Watts

L: Normal Control Does Naomi Watts go nude in this (she's usually an eager beaver onscreen)? If so, I may grab a hotdog and watch it. ou see her left boob!! ... More

Posted by Dannybohy at 08:54, 09 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Qwerty Norris Very hard to fault the production design & young Holland is absolutely fantastic, yet it suffers from that inherent problem of trying to dramatise & extend the commercial viability of a real life tragedy which for me compromised the depiction. Some plot contrivances which can only exist in the world of mainstream cinema (the hospital scene near the end) and an overly manipulative score did nothing other than remove this viewer from the plight of the characters and remi... More

Posted by Dannybohy at 08:54, 09 January 2013 | Report This Post


Naomi Watts

Does Naomi Watts go nude in this (she's usually an eager beaver onscreen)? If so, I may grab a hotdog and watch it. ... More

Posted by Normal Control at 20:57, 08 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

Very hard to fault the production design & young Holland is absolutely fantastic, yet it suffers from that inherent problem of trying to dramatise & extend the commercial viability of a real life tragedy which for me compromised the depiction. Some plot contrivances which can only exist in the world of mainstream cinema (the hospital scene near the end) and an overly manipulative score did nothing other than remove this viewer from the plight of the characters and reminded them that they were w... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 16:35, 08 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE:

Highly recommend this movie! Very powerful and moving, my wife was a wreck afterwards. Also more frightening than any horror you will see this year. Naomi Watts deserves to be up for the Oscars along with Ewan McGregor and especially the young actor who plays the oldest son. Great start to my 2013 viewing! ... More

Posted by Dannybohy at 09:12, 07 January 2013 | Report This Post


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