This latest film by Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage) is based on a real family and their harrowing experience while holidaying in Thailand. When violence struck the seaside region of Khao Lak on boxing day, all five individuals were separated and left to fend for themselves.
[Members of this real life family are Quique Alvarez, his wife Maria Belon and their three younglings. Follow this link for more about their true life ordeal: Boxing Day Tsunami Family]
Bayona spends half an hour introducing British family; the Bennetts, establishing relationship dynamics that effectively presage each member’s survival instincts. Henry and Maria (Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts) are loving and middle-aged parents to privileged kids: eldest son Lucas (Tom Holland) is 12 and outlier of the group; second child Tom is 9½, thoughtful and sensitive with a soft spot for astronomy; youngest son Simon is 5, young and adorable apple of the eye.
It’s just another morning by the pool when cataclysmic destruction arrives and the first wall of wave smashes against the resort. Palm trees and structures collapse, tourists and locals are washed away.
In one of the most riveting sequences of this film, we witness the violent assault Maria endures when submerged underwater—she is physically mutilated, crushed, knocked, twirled, punched, slashed by miles of debris before spotting Lucas. The second act begins with a frantic and painful race against time to safety before another wave hits.
Pervasive atmosphere in The Impossible is dank and risky, but the fact that Maria and Lucas are still alive shrouds unspeakable hope that their loved ones will live. In classic passion and ferocity so often evoked by Spanish cinema; we fear for these characters and despair at the brutal invasion of fragile life.
With Maria teetering on the edge of fatal injury and the fates of Henry, Tom, Simon still unknown; Bayona successfully creates emotionally stirring drama.
The Impossible delivers what it promises; and movie goers can expect an intense, disaster film set against 2004′s Indian Ocean tsunami. Brilliant performances by Watts (Mulholland Drive, Eastern Promises) and Holland will also bring tears to the soft-hearted.