Impossible is nothing – The Impossible review

The Impossible – Starring Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, and Tom Holland. Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona. Rated M. By Jess Lomas.

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The memory of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami may have already faded for many, but Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Impossible is sure to revive some of the horror as it vividly reconstructs the destruction and mayhem that killed an estimated 220,000 people in Asia. Maria (Naomi Watts) and Henry Bennett (Ewan McGregor) are spending Christmas at a luxury resort in Thailand with their three sons – Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin), and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast) – when the tsunami hits and they are separated. Based on true events, it focuses primarily on Maria and Lucas, who are swept inland and must find their way to safety. Badly injured, Maria relies on her young, precocious son to step up and be a man, as they begin their search to reunite their family.

Not knowing the fate of the real-life subjects is advantageous in fully experiencing the tension and suspense weaved throughout the narrative. The tsunami scene in question is edge of your seat viewing; turbulent and heart wrenching, perfectly encapsulating the disbelief and wonderment felt at the time. To the film’s credit, the scene is not overly drawn out, and despite the over-the-top orchestral score, on the whole The Impossible steers clear of being overly manipulative of its audience’s emotions.

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While Naomi Watts has gone on to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, it’s hard to deny the young actor Tom Holland props for an utterly convincing and moving performance that, along with Watts, elevates this from passable to worthwhile viewing. This is especially true given The Impossible is only Holland’s second feature.

Some controversy has erupted over the supposed whitewashing of the story, with Watts and McGregor lacking any resemblance to the Spanish family that endured the reality. Pair this with a Spanish screenwriter and director, as well as a lack of wider context or focus on the devastated land and local communities, and it’s not hard to see why some people are concerned. Yet despite the questionable choice to focus a non-Western event on the story of a well-to-do British family, the performances alone warrant this preference. That’s not to say The Impossible is without its embarrassing moments of cultural superiority. The conclusion is laughably insensitive to a country and society who had experienced one of the worst natural disasters this world has ever seen.

3/5

The Impossible arrives in Australian cinemas January 24, 2013.

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