Film Review: The Impossible (2012)

I can remember seeing a shaky handheld camera shot of the moment in which a destructive Tsunami surged out of the Indian Ocean and shook our planet on 26th December (Boxing Day), 2004.

It then proceeded to tear through South East Asia, hitting countries like Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand the hardest. It destroyed everything and everyone that lay in its path. I can remember the shocking images of its aftermath; lives obliterated. I can remember hearing death tolls, facts and figures…

“One of the deadliest natural disasters in history”

… but I can’t remember hearing any personal accounts of the event, which is why I was desperate to see ‘The Impossible’, a story of one family’s experience of the Tsunami itself. A snippet from the trailer of the fateful scene in which the Tsunami first erupts and plummets through Thailand, nano seconds away from reaching the focus family, was enough to grip me. It has to be said, this film did not disappoint.

‘The Impossible’ is based on the true story of Maria and Henry Belon and their three sons, all of which endured the devastating events over nine years ago. The real life Spanish family, who are presented as British in the film, consists of mother Maria, father Henry, Lucas (12-years-old), Simon (7) and Thomas (5). The family are presented as typical through numerous dynamics such as the relationship between the parents and the language exchanged between them, as well as an elder brother’s shunning of his younger siblings. The Bennetts, as they are referred to, are holidaying in Thailand over Christmas and manage to enjoy a harmonious Christmas Day. It is evidently the following day that sees them experience the most horrifying disaster and flips their previously average lives upside down. As Henry and his three sons play in the pool of the hotel and Maria looks on, the Tsunami begins to rumble, bubbling up to ultimate destruction. The Bennetts are literally forced apart in shocking scenes of the Tsunami as it tears through them, causing horrendous amounts of pain and utmost fear.

Eldest brother Lucas is reunited with his mother Maria after they are vigorously battered by the forceful waves, but Henry and the two younger boys are nowhere to be seen. Lucas declares his fear to his mother but grows in strength and maturity from that very point. Eventually selflessness, determination and an urge to protect all overrule his childlike fears. He takes a stranded youngster under his wing in what can only be described as a heartfelt scene which has elements of tragedy as we realise that Lucas’ childhood has essentially been swapped for that of responsible adulthood. He also touchingly demonstrates a mature respect for his mother as he signals for her to cover her exposed breasts, which have been revealed through the battering waves. He enables her to grasp an ounce of her dignity back if only for a second. Maria is severely injured from branches and wires that have slashed at her body, a fact of which is tragic as a result of her previously strong and authoritative stance. She undergoes a grim struggle to survive the events and her chances of recovery waver as the film proceeds. Lucas further progresses into his role as protector as the pair begin a mission to reach safety, and to find the rest of their family. I won’t ruin any more as it would rob the film of its full potential to affect those who haven’t yet seen it. But what I will say, is that each of the actor’s performances are astounding. As an avid fan of Ewan McGregor, I expected nothing less than excellence from his performance and he certainly delivered. As for Naomi Watts, who I have never been a particular fan of, admittedly her performance is as equally compelling. However, in my opinion, it is particularly the performances of the younger actors, who demonstrate an immense degree of talent for their tender ages, that steal the show. They are each exceptionally talented, which is so refreshing to see from newcomers.

Not only is ‘The Impossible’ a showcase of acting talent, it is an amazingly true story that documents survival in a horrifying disaster, as well as an important lesson, reminding us of a few important facts. Firstly, that the sacrifices we see onscreen are ones that will have been made by the people that endured the disaster when it actually happened on Boxing Day 2004, and secondly, that nature is a brutal force and anything but safe. Tears guaranteed. A must-see!


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