Some movies pride themselves on being reminders—especially during the holiday season. It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, and even Home Alone serve as refresh buttons, clearing out our brains and rejuvenating our awareness about how the importance of family, life, and love—and usually doing so softly, gently, and with a mother's care. The Impossible may take place around Christmastime but it is no Christmas movie in any traditional sense. And though it causes us to remember the themes above, it does so not with a caress but with furious intensity.
In 2004, Henry (Ewan McGregor) and Maria (Naomi Watts) take their three young boys to Thailand for Christmas. Lucas (Tom Holland) is just on the edge of puberty, so he's starting to get an idea of his parents' flawed humanity, while Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast) are younger, and more innocent. They arrive at a resort and partake in some small enjoyments until disaster strikes the day after Christmas. A tsunami slams into the Thailand coastline and separates the family, ultimately killing over five thousand people and leaving more than a thousand orphans in one fell swoop. Lucas ends up with his mom, the other two boys with their father. The rest of the film consists of the family trying to find each other again.
The Impossible is based on a true story in the lives of a real-life Spanish family. Director J.A. Bayona goes to great lengths to depict the harsh reality of what happened on December 26, 2004 as well as its aftermath. It's the catastrophe itself that is most impressive in terms of filming here. The sequences of water rushing and particularly of Watts being dragged undersea and above again, all the while beaten ...1