Horrific and uplifting, The Impossible is a disaster movie with heart that features innovative direction by Juan Antontio Bayona and powerful performances from its cast.
The 2004 Boxing Day tsunami was a natural disaster of incomparable power and unspeakable loss. The Impossible successfully depicts the many emotions and horrors brought from such tragedy by focusing on the true life story of a vacationing family who survived the onslaught.
Portraying the family is a group of talented actors (Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland) who turn in heart-wrenching performances worthy of their true life subjects. Controversy has arisen that the real life family in question are Spanish, while there on screen counterparts are English. Yet those making a ruckus are missing the point that it’s not about the ethnicity of these protagonists, but rather the persistent strength of the human spirit that drives all of us to overcome great hardship.
As mentioned all of the actors featured in The Impossible are superb. Yet standing out is Naomi Watts, an actress capable of channelling raw, gritty emotion (see 21 Grams) which she does here with incredible gusto, with her character broken, wounded, and drained physically and mentally to the point of near death. “The Passion of Naomi” is how many have described Watts’ performance and it’s a worthy description.
Dispensing the pain is director Juan Antonio Bayona, who last scared us witless with his moody haunted house thriller The Orphanage. Bayona doesn’t shy away from the gapping, bloody injury and decaying death that comes from such natural disaster with a great make-up effects team convincingly designing the suitably horrific results of when a deluge of water, brick, and glass collides with flesh.
Astounding is the tsunami scene itself, an incredibly shot and choreographed sequence that is even more impressive considering the paltry budget Bayona had to work with when compared to Hollywood blockbusters. The moments especially where Watts and young Tom Holland are tossed about in a torrent of water, steel and tree is something nightmares are made of and hits home the fact that what this family endured is not only impossible, but miraculous.
As such The Impossible reminds about the destructive power of nature, and how we are but a speck in comparison to its great power. But it also reminds that no matter the odds against us, human kind has the potential to rise above adversity no matter how great, for the human spirit knows no bounds.