Movie Review: The Impossible

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MV5BMjA5NTA3NzQ5Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTYxNjY0OA@@._V1._SY317_Over 230,000 lives lost in 14 countries.  This is a survival story of one family during the 2004 tsunami. 

Based on a true story, “The Impossible” recounts an unbelievable tale of survival of Enrique Alvarez (Ewan McGregor, “Haywire,” “PerfectSense“), Maria Belon (Naomi Watts), and their three young sons, Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin), Simon (Oaklee Pendergast).  Only Enrique’s name is changed to Henry; everyone in the family uses the real names. 

The film will grab you from the start.  Even as the family’s vacation in Thailand begins on a relaxing note, seeing them and all those happy people in a tropical paradise, I couldn’t help feeling knots in my stomach.  Nobody could have predicted the horror and suffering that would await them.  It makes the little family quibbles poignant and lantern release on the beach even more ethereal.

Within moments of impact, the monstrous tidal waves engulf and steamroll everything and everyone in its path.  And the aftermath, unimaginable.  The wounded and the dead, and miles and miles of destruction and desolation.  The wrath of nature is re-created so masterfully by filmmaker Juan Antonio Bayona that it feels like a documentary. 

Maria and Lucas quickly find each other, and cling to a tree until getting dragged to safety, but not until they have to figure out what to do when they hear cries of a trapped toddler.  It’s visceral filmmaking at its finest.  It’s excruciating to witness human beings drowning, getting tossed, turned, hit, poked and punctured.  The aftermath really shows how dangerous and frightening to get swept away among downed trees, power lines, cars, boats, sharp debris and anything in between could be.  With his mom sustaining life-threatening injuries, Lucas is forced to be the grown-up one.  Not knowing that his father and younger brothers survive, feeling overwhelmingly scared and alone, he proves himself to be such an incredibly strong and brave boy.  The rest of the story tells about the rest of the family’s survival and their finding their way back to one another.  

Watts deserves every praise that comes her way for her acting.  I really feel her utter terror, pain, agony, sadness and hopelessness.  Physically and emotionally, she reeks death and despair, but still exhibits strength and spirit.  McGregor’s performance, with less screentime than Watts, is heartfelt, as a wrecked husband and father.  The child actors are adorable, but Holland is exceptional.  Mature beyond his years, he equally carries the film with Watts.  He and Watts have a genuine mother-son connection.   

“The Impossible” is a real tear-jerker.  It’s impossibly gut-wrenching, and often times, difficult to watch.  At the same time, it’s also uplifting and healing to see resilience, kindness and love of families and community coming together and helping one another.  Miracles do happen and “The Impossible” is an example of that.

Copyright (c) 2013. Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a business manager, foreign language translator, film columnist and lifestyle/travel writer.  She can be reached at  Nathalia owns a movies blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter:

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at [email protected].

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