The killer tsunami that hit Southeast Asia in 2004 is the real star of The Impossible. The tsunami horror that was frighteningly depicted in the 2010 movie Hereafter is multiplied and intensified in The Impossible. Add to that horror… the horror of not knowing whether your family members survived the ordeal.
Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor are mom and dad to three young boys on a Christmas holiday trip when the monster wave hits. After the water finally subsides, mom is severely injured. With help from one son, she makes it to a treatment center, where the medical staff tends to those who are hurt.
Meanwhile dad and the other two sons await word regarding mom and the other son. Dad sets off on a quest to learn his wife’s fate and locate her. He accepts the offer of a stranger (played by Geraldine Chaplin) to watch the younger boys while he searches for his wife and older son. Later, he is unable to locate those two younger sons, adding to his worries.
Any parent who has ever lost a child, even for a moment, knows the pangs of fear that overtake the mind and body during those times. Any child who has ever been separated from a parent also knows the terror that each of these three children knew during this ordeal. Watts and McGregor as the parents and Tom Holland as the oldest son each are superb at bringing these emotions to the screen.
My only complaint about the film is that timeline is not exactly clear. When the narrative moves straight ahead with no sidebars or flashbacks as in The Impossible, the passage of days and nights should be more plainly delineated.
The Impossible is based on a true story. The family survives, despite injuries. But the mood at the film’s end is more melancholy than upbeat. The fact that the tsunami killed so many thousands keeps the tone somber and respectful.
The story is presented with a bit of Hollywood plot enhancement, but stays on its consistent path without being especially stylish. It is the acting and the effects that make The Impossible a compelling movie to watch.