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The Impossible Reviews

Page 1 of 185
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

March 6, 2014
I have mixed feelings regarding The Impossible. My initial fears were that it would be gratuitous, thankfully this wasn't the case. The people and the situation were handled well and in good taste. However, as a film I found it quite frustrating. Director Juan Antonio Bayona used cheap tricks often used in horror films to prolong the tension, there is a level of mistrust felt by keeping information from the viewer which effected my overall enjoyment. When the ending can only go one of two ways, it is important to find new ways of approaching the conclusion and Bayone fails to do this. The child actors are also miscast. Tom Holland is famous for playing Billy Elliot on the stage and unfortunately his performance suffers from being a little too theatrical in its delivery. The other two kids follow suit and take away much of the believability of the overall story. The film was lifted for me thanks to the short but wonderful performance by Geraldine Chaplin.
Wildaly M

Super Reviewer

December 25, 2013
I was perhaps not very emotionally attached to the characters in this one, but it is undeniable that the performances are brilliant all around.
The Gandiman
The Gandiman

Super Reviewer

August 5, 2013
"The Impossible" is a film that has a moment every watcher awaits from the moment the screen credits begin to roll - the tsunami. These "moment" films have a major obstacle to clear as the expectation for that moments gives the film the pressure to live up to that "moment".

But thanks to those high expectations films that are able to live up to the promise transcend. Some examples are "Jaws" where everyone in the audience is on the edge of their seats waiting to see that shark and when it does appear, boy does it meet expectations. And then the film itself continues to build on that momentum and before you realize it you are experiencing a special kind of magic.

When it's done poorly - say like 2004's "The Day After Tomorrow", it's a disaster. This film marketed world destruction and the special effects delivered but the film itself was tedious and idiotic.

When the tsunami arrives in "The Impossible" - it is terrifying. Just like advertised the moment that is the nucleus to the film is visually stunning but also a horrifying thing to witness. Juan Antonio Bayona does an incredible job at not just stopping at the huge wave that overcomes the resort but the unknown dangers it continued to unleash on our protagonists.

Thanks to strong performances by Naomi Watts and the incredible Tom Holland, "The Impossible" comes close to being a home run, but the moment that action shifts to Ewan McGregor's side of the story it deflates. The script in its attempts to depict moments that occurred over a long period of time into a compact 2 hours becomes hard to swallow. Coincidences abound - one moment in the hospital (will avoid divulging spoiler) is particularly Hollywood.

For about 3/4 of its length, "The Impossible" is a hell of a film but it ultimately begins to falter. Luckily for us the promise the movie made of exposing you to the horrors of the tsunami and surviving it is fulfilled. Too bad the human element didn't equal that promise.
Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

June 23, 2013
If there's one phrase that leads film fans to roll their eyes, it's "based on a true story". The phrase has become a byword for filmmakers' embellishment of events, manipulating or corrupting real-life accounts for the sake of generic convention. We're all familiar with the complaints about movie logic, Hollywood's tendency to romanticise or dumb down, and the on-going debate about how far cinema should go in accurately depicting human interactions.

With all this in mind, you might consider giving The Impossible a very wide berth. Not only is it "based on a true story", but it deals with natural disasters - a sensitive subject at the best of times. The Boxing Day tsunami still feels relatively recent, and there are any number of traps into which a director could fall in attempting to address it. But while it does still raise all these familiar questions, The Impossible is still a very good film, delivering more than its share of emotional punch.

One of the challenges of doing any kind of big set-piece lies in balancing the many different kinds of effects. Since Total Recall and Terminator 2 kick-started the CG revolution, there has been a growing trend towards CG over organic effects, both as an internal economy and to avoid putting actors and stunt-people in needless danger. But effects are only as good as the people directing them, and in this kind of story, you can't afford to have water that looks like it escaped from Die Another Day.

Fortunately, The Impossible is in good hands in this regard. Juan Antonio Bayona learnt his craft under the patronage of Guillermo del Toro, who produced Bayona's brilliant debut The Orphanage. Both directors understand what different kinds of effects can achieve, and how important it is to physicalize a character or threat wherever possible. While there is a fair amount of CGI involved, the vast majority of the tsunami scenes were filmed using real water, with the actors being thrown around in the same kind of tidal tanks that Ang Lee employed in Life of Pi.

It's not just the big-scale effects that impress, however. Equally good are the prosthetics and make-up, which cause us to refocus our attention on the characters and conspire to make the whole thing feel horribly real. For a 12 certificate, the film is incredibly brutal, with the only punches pulled being in the relatively fast editing whenever blood is spilled. Certainly you'll struggle not to recoil in horror at the sight of Naomi Watts' badly-damaged leg.

This leads us onto the second big success of The Impossible, namely getting us invested in the characters. As before, it's very easy to roll your eyes and pigeonhole the characters according to the familiar ciphers and conventions of stories about the triumph of the human spirit. But once again Bayona confounds us, assisted in this regard by The Orphanage screenwriter Sergio G. Sánchez. While there are issues with the narrative itself, the central characters are well-drawn and feel naturalistic in both their actions and their reactions to what is happening.

If nothing else, The Impossible confirms Bayona as a great director of child actors. He has a gift of getting great performances from very young talents, which is magnified by the skill he has at showing this world from a child's point of view. The film is at its best when we see all the devastation and emotional anguish in terms of the children caught up in it, whether it's Simon and Thomas quarrelling on the bus, or Lucas looking after his mother and wandering around the hospital with the list of names.

Like The Orphanage before it, The Impossible centres round parents and children searching for each other. In both cases the adults take up a lot of the screen time but are not the driving force - Naomi Watts has as little control as Belén Rueda over the fate of her child or the environment in which she finds herself. Bayona's touch is such that it lends the production an innocence which amplifies the drama and lessens the impression that we are being manipulated.

The performances in The Impossible cement Bayona's efforts and are often the key to elevating the story above convention. Tom Holland is outstanding as Lucas; like all the best child or teenage actors, he is wise beyond his years but avoids coming across as overly mannered. His reactions are naturalistic and believable, and he handles the darker material very capably. Naomi Watts continues to put herself through the mill as an actress, turning out another gripping, no-holes-barred performance. For once Ewan McGregor is a little flat, being generally convincing but not managing to hold his own in his sections of the story.

As a character piece, The Impossible is a well-crafted film that deserves plaudits for the way in which its story has been staged, both technically and narratively. But upon closer scrutiny, there are a couple of narrative shortcomings which prevent the film from ascertaining greatness. Ultimately its emotional depth is more than enough to see us through, and while we're watching the film these shortcomings don't interfere too greatly. Instead they are niggling little questions which emerge in the aftermath, and which take just a little bit of the shine off what is otherwise a very fine effort.

The story of the film is relatively simple but well-told in terms of its character arcs and development. The script, however, isn't always strong on dialogue, with the endless shouting of names drifting a little close to Titanic and a few occasions where supporting characters monologue about their place in the universe. There are also some big melodramatic contrivances, such as the manner of the family's reunion or the resolution of Daniel's subplot. If these events did happen exact as shown, they are clumsily conveyed; if they didn't, they have no real business in being there.

The much bigger criticism, which seems to have dogged the film, is that of alleged "whitewashing". There are, in fact, two separate accusations. The first concerns the nationality of the family, which are changed from Spanish to British (at least as far as accents are concerned) - the argument being that this was done to appeal to American audiences who might not read subtitles (so the stereotype goes). The second concerns the Thai presence in the film, with the attention focussing on the plight of Western tourists and not the pain and devastation of Thai nationals, who did not often have access to the support or resources enjoyed by the main characters.

It is certainly true that The Impossible focusses on privileged white people, but it also doesn't make any massive attempt to say that their experience is typical. It is possible for an extraordinary story to convey universal themes, and vice versa. Because of this, the Thai characters are marginalised, and it is fair to assume that a film made from their viewpoint would have been more brutal still. You could even argue that the film has the problem as Shame, depicting something truly horrific while ultimately feeling a little too choreographed to truly win us over.

Ultimately, however, The Impossible has such a strong emotional pull that we are invested in the characters regardless of their race or status. These criticisms emerge during the moments of narrative contrivance or slack scripting, but for the most part the film is not dogged by these problems. Bayona's storytelling is efficient and he balances the two sides of the family reasonably well. It may not be the deepest disaster film ever, but it is one of the most emotionally weighty.

The Impossible is a really good film whose myriad successes ultimately overshadow its shortcomings. It tackles a very difficult subject matter with sensitivity and aplomb, offering us a host of good characters and great performances in which we can really invest. It's not without its problems, narrative or symbolic, but it's still a gripping and visceral drama that really deserves to be seen.
YodaMasterJedi
YodaMasterJedi

Super Reviewer

June 4, 2013
three stars!!
Cynthia S

Super Reviewer

January 23, 2013
Overwhelming, and emotional, but definitely worth it. Generally when I've heard talk of this movie, it's praise for Ewan and Naomi (who are absolutely sensational), but I think more emphasis should be put on the younger members of the cast...those boys completely, and utterly, stole the entire movie. Sooo good, and a miracle if ever I saw one...
Matthew Samuel M

Super Reviewer

May 4, 2013
Sure, it has its flaws, but in the end, it is a great film. The Impossible is intense and powerful, and brought me to the verge of tears. The acting is generally good---excellent, in fact, from the leads--the pacing is perfect, and the length of the film is appropriate. Bravo!
Dan S

Super Reviewer

April 30, 2013
A movie with good intentions that ultimately sells itself short with a simple story of a European family torn apart by the devastating tsunami that ripped through the Southeast Asia area in 2004. While the acting is phenomenal, especially Watts in a well-deserved Oscar nominated turn, the story is predictable and formulaic. The tsunami scenes are incredibly filmed and there are certainly powerful scenes between the family, but the absence of an overarching look at how badly the natives of the land suffered is ultimately bothersome. While it is brought up in passing and definitely realized to some minor degree, it more or less feels like a look at "the vacation from hell" instead of a serious, all-encompassing look at an event that wrecked many native Asians' lives. Not a bad movie by any stretch, as said the acting is great, it is definitely powerful at times, and it has its heart in the right place, but there is never any doubt how this thing is going to end. It is just unfortunate since this could have been a really good movie had it taken risks and been more focused on who this event really impacted.
Matthew S

Super Reviewer

April 22, 2013
In one moment, without warning, over 230,000 people lost their lives to a tsunami in 2004. "The Impossible" viscerally communicates the water's awesome destructive force on the body and the following emotional chaos among survivors who drudge through the landscape wondering where the water dragged their loved ones or whether it consumed them eternally.
familiar s

Super Reviewer

April 17, 2013
With all due respects to the concerned families, the dramatization of true events wasn't good enough to keep me indulged. The lost-and-found story was hardly any interesting. I just checked & found that my heart is still beating. So yeah, while I have a heart, I wasn't the least moved by this disastrous emotional drama. As opposed to the execution of the flick, the performances were fine enough.
boxman
boxman

Super Reviewer

February 21, 2013
On December 26, 2004, an underwater earthquake triggered one of the deadliest tsunamis on record, devastating coastal cities along the Indian Ocean. Over 230,000 people are believed to have perished from the waves and resulting damage. The Impossible tells the harrowing and ultimately inspiring true-story of one family and their vacation from hell. We follow Marie (Naomi Watts) and Henry (Ewan McGregor) as well as their three sons, from oldest to youngest, Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin), and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast). They're vacationing in Thailand for the holidays and then the tsunami hits, separating Marie and Lucas from the group. They are swept away by the punishing waves and Marie is badly hurt. Henry is desperately searching for his loved ones, Lucas is desperate to get his mother proper medical attention, and there are thousands just as desperate and just as in need.

It's nigh impossible to watch this movie and be unmoved. It's not very subtle when it comes to its themes and messages, but man is it ever effective. The family struggle could have easily descended into melodrama with a sappy, maudlin reunion, punctuated with swelling music to hit you over the head. It's a fairly simple story with little to its plot. The family gets separated and then they desperately search for one another and, surprise, they reunite. It is after all based on a true story and they all lived, so there's that. It's the startling level of realism, the exceptional performances, and the poignant moments of human kindness and grace that suckered me in big time. I was an emotional wreck throughout this movie but in the best way possible. I cried at points, sure, but my tears and my emotions always felt genuinely earned. There's no doubt that this is one manipulative movie. It knows what strings to pull, what buttons to push, and it does so with finesse. Last year I decried Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close for being overly manipulative and overdosing on false sentiment. However, with this movie, my investment was never in jeopardy. I was completely absorbed by the story and felt great empathy for the array of characters as they persevere. The horror of that 2004 tsunami is told in one small story, personalized, and giving an entry point for an audience to engage without feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of destruction and death.

Let me go into further detail about that wall of destruction, given astonishing, terrifying realism. The recreation of the tsunami ranks up there as one of the most frightening sequences I've ever seen in film. It's a solid ten minutes of chaos, and you will feel the frenzy of that chaos. You're put in the middle, floating along with mother and son as they helplessly try and cling to one another. The scope of the disaster will leave you gasping. I know they must have used sets and water tanks but I'm left stupefied how it all came together to look so seamless. It sounds macabre to compliment the marvelous recreation of mayhem, but director Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage) and his team have turned disaster into world-class drama. It's not just the powerful waves as well, there's the field of debris just under the surface to contend with as well. When the first wave hits Maria, we experience her complete disorientation. The sights and sounds are blurs, the water oppressive, and the debris sudden, jolting, unforgiving. It's the closest any person would ever truly want to get in the middle of a tsunami.

The majority of the film is about the family coming back together, and while their reunion is indeed a tearjerker, I found the film littered with many small moments that just soared emotionally. When a disaster of this magnitude hits, I'm always struck by the wealth of human kindness and cooperation that emerges in response. There's something deeply moving about helping your fellow man in need, even if you cannot understand his or her language. Maria is aided by the Thai locals who do not treat her differently because she's a white woman. She is just another person in need.

Whenever disaster strikes, we think of the people who plunge into the middle as heroes, but simple acts can be just as comforting and thoughtful. There are small moments of kindness, like lending a stranger your cell phone to call home, that speak volumes. In that one instance, Henry is so distraught, the weight of everything hitting him as he tries to put it into words, and his call is abrupt and somewhat incomprehensible thanks to his rising emotions. Henry is urged to call back, not to leave it at that, to leave his relatives dangling with such precious little and the alarm in his voice. So he's given the phone again, and in a more measured demeanor, Henry is able to talk about the situation and promise to find his wife. It's such an everyday gesture made invaluable to Henry. There's a woman talking to Thomas about the stars in the sky, how we don't know which are dead but they continue to live on, and the subtext is a bit obvious but it's still heartfelt. Then there's Lucas' mission of organizing the triage center, scouring the grounds looking for missing family members. He takes it upon himself to make a difference rather than sitting idle. It's that human connection in the face of adversity that proves most uplifting.

Watts (J. Edgar) gives a performance of tremendous strength and fragility. The tenacity and resilience she has to keep pushing through is remarkable. She's so strong but vulnerable at the same time, showing you the fine line she walks to stay above the fray for her child. She endures great physical trauma, a gnarly gash in her leg peeling off like tree bark. Then there's the emotional burden of trying to be a mother to a child desperately in need of a sturdy parent. Watts could have readily played to the heights of the emotions, resorting to hysterics, but the quiet strength of her character makes her underplay the burdens she endures. She can't simply just break down. You don't get a true sense of the toll she has suffered until her life-and-death struggles at the very end.

The supporting team around Watts also deserves accolades. McGregor (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) has several heartbreaking and heartwarming scenes, striving for hope. Lucas has to rise to maturity when his mother is wounded, protecting her, supporting her. Acting novice Holland rises to that challenge with great courage, though there are moments that still remind you he's only a boy, like when he bashfully turns his back upon seeing his mother's exposed breast. That awkward, indecisive moment where a young boy doesn't know how to handle the sight, seeing his mother so exposed and vulnerable. The other actors who round out the family (Joslin and Pendergast) are quite superb as well. The family feels like a cohesive, loving unit, and every performance feels believable.

The Impossible is based upon the true experiences of a Spanish family, and yet the onscreen family we follow is white, so what gives? It's not surprising for Hollywood to whitewash a story to appeal to a wider audience. Should we have any more sympathy for this family's plight because they are white? Would we feel less if they were Spanish? I think the perils and victories would be the same regardless of language or ethnicity, but I can't fault the producers for snagging talent like Watts and McGregor. If you have actors of this caliber that wish to come aboard, then by all means change the ethnicity of the characters. I was too consumed in the story to care that much about this facet.

Watching the unflinching and stunning events in The Impossible, you will likely shed some tears, be they from horror, sadness, or happiness at the family's reunion. While the ending is never in doubt, the movie has plenty of other potent and poignant small moments to keep your emotions safely stirred. It's a visceral experience that will shock and exhilarate. There were moments where I felt like I had to cover my eyes. But The Impossible is not disaster porn, ogling over the suffering and endurance of the misfortunate. It's as much about the response to tragedy as it is the wallop of that cruel tragedy in 2004. The perseverance, the open-hearted help of one's fellow man, the strength of human connection, the long ripples of kindness, it all comes together to form one compelling, often moving, and quite memorable film experience. Add some formidable performances, top-notch direction, and tremendous technical achievement, and The Impossible is a rousing drama that speaks to the best of us even in the worst conditions (think of it as the antithesis of Ayn Rand's philosophy). It may be manipulative, it may be somewhat straightforward, and it likely climaxes too soon, but when the results are this powerful and emotionally engaging, then I'm happy to have my buttons pushed.

Nate's Grade: A-
Bill D 2007
Bill D 2007

Super Reviewer

January 29, 2013
"The Impossible" is what you'd expect from a movie about the Asian tsunami of 2004. Heart-wrenching footage of a family struggling to survive, both during the tsunami and the grueling 48 hours afterward.

It's based on the true story of one family of five, where miraculously every member survived. It is very emotional of course. The child actors are directed beautifully.

But there's not a single surprising moment in the film. Not one. This is a very simple movie.
MANUGINO
MANUGINO

Super Reviewer

January 24, 2013
Nothing is more powerful than the human spirit.

Amazing moving FIlm!!! "The Impossible" is an extraordinary journey of the human spirit. Not always easy to watch, but the devastation and pain is worth experiencing. Through the love of this family and the efforts of the people of Thailand, you are brought into an emotional wave almost as strong as the horrific tsunami itself while it drags you through the heartbreak to the bitter end. This story through visuals and powering script is a basic story told in an absolutely brilliant way. Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor's performance is amazing, the scenario is perfect and the soundtrack completes everything else in this masterpiece. This is a film that must be experienced by all. As you lay in your cozy beds tonight, take your loved ones for granted as they walk by you, and breath the air you so blindly feel entitled to, think about if at one moment, one single moment, from now, it was all gone. The Impossible dared me to be a better human being, a notion not many films will or attempt to convey.

A regular family - Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their three kids - travel to Thailand to spend Christmas. They get an upgrade to a villa on the coastline. After settling in and exchanging gifts, they go to the pool, like so many other tourists. A perfect paradise vacation until a distant noise becomes a roar. There is no time to escape from the tsunami; Maria and her eldest are swept one way, Henry and the youngest another. Who will survive, and what will become of them?
TomBowler
TomBowler

Super Reviewer

February 16, 2013
Brilliantly realised visuals with two amazing performances from the leads, backed up with a fantastic script based on a harrowing true story. Full review later.
Mark W

Super Reviewer

February 10, 2013
One of the very best of recent horror movies was "The Orphanage", released in 2007. As part of it's marketing campaign it was executive produced by the familiar name of Guillermo del Toro ("Pan's Labyrinth"). Of course, del Toro wasn't the creative mind behind the film - little known, Spanish director, Juan Antonio Bayona was. With this follow-up Bayona tackles an altogether different horror in the shape of one the world's worst natural disasters: that of the Pacific Basin Tsunami of 2004.
Maria (Naomi Watts) and Henry (Ewan McGregor) are a British couple who takes their three sons on a Christmas family holiday to Thailand. Their idyllic setting is soon torn apart when a powerful and deadly tsunami rips through the beach resort. Maria and the eldest son Lucas (Tom Holland) manage to struggle to safety but Henry and the younger boys are separated, leaving them fighting for survival and unaware of each others' fate.
Bayona starts his film off gently, as he introduces the quaint British family going about their holiday with love and enthusiasm. He takes little time in establishing his characters but takes enough to convey them as a strong unit. When they are separated by the sheer destructive force of the Tsunami, Bayona establishes his skill and deft handling of the disaster in all it's devastating force. It's entirely believable and absolutely awe-inspiring as man made structures and natural habitats are swept aside like playthings. On top of this, he gives us a turbulent, first-person point of view of the confusion whilst being churned around in this tidal wave. It's a cinematic achievement that's nothing less than impressive. From here, it progresses into a survival story as the separated family strive to find one another and it's at this point that the film slows down and gets in touch with it's emotional core. I was actually surprised by it's level of emotion but that's not to say that I didn't like it. It worked primarily because we can identify with these suffering individuals. This is a natural disaster that affected many throughout the world and the loss was practically incalculable. As a result, the film becomes a bit of a tearjerker and some may even claim manipulatively so. I was so unprepared that at several points, I was wondering why I had a lump in my throat and why it didn't seem to be going away either. Quite simply, the film's emotional power captured me and refused to let go. Of course, to make this believable, you have to look at the cast members. Each and every one of them were superb; Naomi Watts has been Oscar nominated for her turn but Ewan McGregor can count himself very unlucky not to receive similar recognition. They both deliver outstandingly strong work. Special mention must also go to Tom Holland as the eldest son, who actually carries a large amount of the film of his young shoulders. We could be witnessing the arrival of a very fine actor here. Ultimately, it's through these performers that we invest ourselves into this tragedy. Surprisingly, the only film that I'm aware of that has touched upon this disaster is Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter" but it didn't deal with it to the extent and technical ability that this does.
It's not often we get such an impressive piece of work that, so easily, tugs on the heartstrings. In fact, the last time I felt this was with Juan Antonio Bayona's aforementioned "The Orphanage" but to capture such a disaster in all it's ferocity, reaffirms that the impossible is not so hard to believe in contemporary cinema any more.
thmtsang
thmtsang

Super Reviewer

December 21, 2012
This movie is based on a true story about a family dispersed by the Indian Ocean tsunami on boxing day 2004. The family were on holiday in Thailand. The earthquake and tsunami killed 280,000 people across 14 countries. The acting and special effects are amazing. It is so real, I felt battered, bruised and emotionally drained by the whole movie experience. I've not seen something as powerful as this in many years.
c0up
c0up

Super Reviewer

January 26, 2013
'The Impossible'. Pulls effectively at the heart strings throughout, while capturing the chaos and immense destruction wonderfully.

I say "wonderfully" in the strangest possible way, because the direction, production, sets and sound design are very skillful and immersive, adding a huge amount to the shock value of the subject matter.
Nadira I

Super Reviewer

January 21, 2013
Best disaster movie I have ever seen, capturing precisely the emotions felt by the victims and stunning heartbreaking images of a tsunami.
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