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Naomi Watts
Ewan McGregor
Tom Holland.
Juan Antonio Bayona.
Sergio G. Sánchez .
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The Impossible
Harrowing, honest and heartbreaking

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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.

The Impossible
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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.

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

Powerful and moving, even if the script wavers at times. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Whistler at 23:32, 05 January 2013 | Report This Post

Many Waves of Emotions all round......

Just come back from the Cinema after watching the " The Imposssible " and what a roller-coaster of emotions you go through watching this Film, hardly a dry eye in the house at times, but overall its a real heart warming story of human endurance, and overcoming almost impossible odds ( hence the title I suppose ) to survive. Would I recommend it, well I think it all depends on your outlook on life I suppose. I really enjoyed it, and so did my wife, but a lot of people did actually walk... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by n13roy at 17:07, 03 January 2013 | Report This Post

RE: sounds interesting

Saw this last night and arrived so late that the only option left was the front row - felt like free IMAX so might go for that again. Anyways the film was fantastic and is highly recommended - if you can keep dry eyes throughout you're a better man than me. Poor Naomi Watts has another role where she really goes through the wringer - between this, 21 Grams and Funny Games she's had some really emotionally demanding parts. McGregor is also better than I expected, keeping things simple. A good fi... More

Posted by BelovedAunt at 15:03, 03 January 2013 | Report This Post

sounds interesting

Heard really good things about this movie and the performances has now swayed me to go see this as soon as possible. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by darktrain at 09:45, 01 January 2013 | Report This Post

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