Little White Lies, a deliciously addictive movie magazine, gave this film a rating of one out of five and argued that it’s offensive. I couldn’t disagree more. Cinema is a powerful medium, and it has been used to catalogue upsetting or devastating moments in history for over a hundred years. The latest terrible event to get the big-screen treatment is the Asian Tsunami which occurred on Boxing Day in 2004. The Impossible doesn’t go in for trauma-porn (though some scenes do depict trauma during the aftermath of the wave hitting), nor does it sentimentalise the situation to an extent that is offensive or troubling. It tells a story of a family trying to find each other after being separated amidst the chaos of the disaster. And it does it superbly.
The family in the film do exist, though in real life they were Spanish. Here they have been made British (maybe to make the movie more saleable internationally), and the parents are played by Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor.
The parents’ struggle to find each other and their three children is deeply moving. Director Juan Antonio Bayona, who made the excellent Spanish horror film The Orphanage, coaxes out great performances from both his leads.
I didn’t think Clint Eastwood’s depiction of a Tsunami in the otherwise terrible film Hereafter could ever be bettered. I have been proved wrong. Bayona and the effects his team have created make the whole thing feel shockingly real to the viewer.
Some may ask why anyone would want to be held captive in a cinema and experience such a horrific disaster. I can understand the apprehension, but this film is driven by themes such as family, commitment, love and hope. It isn’t a depressing experience. It’s distressing at times, but the overall emotional effect is very powerful and, in its own way, life-affirming. Contrary to what some critics have been saying, this isn’t a touchy topic handled with a lack of care or feeling to those involved. It is a sensitive film but big and robust in its scope and vision. In other words, it’s an experience you won’t forget in a hurry.
The Impossible (2013), directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, is released in UK cinemas by Entertainment One, Certificate 12A.