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A terrible event ... but a moving film
Ray Lahey12 September 2012

The 2004 tsunami was one of the deadliest natural disasters on record. Because it occurred in the Christmas season and hit many resort area beaches its death toll of almost 250,000 was indiscriminate, taking not only South Asians but many visiting vacationers. People everywhere were affected by it. My own relatives who were then living in Thailand were destined that day to be on the beach, but, unknown to the rest of us, illness caused them to alter their plans. I personally heard from Thai acquaintances the story of nieces and nephews who excitedly ran to the shore to see the wondrous phenomenon of the receding ocean, only to be swamped by its return. Weeks later, flying over the Indonesian coastline, I could see with my own eyes just how far inland the wave had rushed, and the devastation it had wrought.

How do you frame such a catastrophe in human terms, and present a situation of pure chaos in a way that makes a compelling story? How do you tell such a tale in a way that respects both the lost and the survivors, many of whom suffered personal tragedies as well, and more of whom bore the guilt of survival? How does one story tell some of the many stories of that day? These were among the challenges that faced director Juan Antonio Bayona and screenwriter Sergio G. Sanchez when they decided to put an account of the 2004 tsunami on the screen. Their solution was to deal with one British family on vacation in Thailand from Japan, but their film uses that family as a catalyst to show the tsunami's awful effect not only on the tourist population but on the local people who suffered even more.

Both the film itself and the filmmakers have taken pains to say that this is a "true story," and they have aimed for the greatest possible authenticity in the circumstances. They have based themselves on detailed interviews with the family members and with other survivors, some of whom actually appear in the film. (For example, those who tell their tales to Ewan McGregor at the bus station are almost all actual survivors.) While footage of the tsunami strike itself was shot in a water tank at Alicante on the Spanish coast, and a couple of days filming of interiors took place in Spanish studios, the remainder of this picture was shot on location in Thailand using the real places of the story, such as the Orchid Beach Hotel in Phang Nga, and the actual hospital where much of the action occurs.

The actual Thai locations and the many Thai actors keep the production values superb, and give this film an authenticity it would not otherwise have. So of course do the survivors who take part, whose emotions are sometimes all too real. Many video shots exist of the tsunami hitting the Asian beaches, but no one who was not there can have any real idea of what it must have been like to have been caught up by its waters. Bayona has chosen to focus not so much on the massive power of the tidal wave itself but on the sheer terror and disorientation it must have created for those submerged in it, and upon the human toll it took. But his scenes of its striking are horrific enough to give some sense of its magnitude, even on the screen. Nor does he pull his punches in some of the grisly scenes that follow. The impressive results that display both the striking wave and its terrible aftermath owe much to production designer Eugenio Caballero.

The big names here are Ewan MacGregor as Henry and Naomi Watts as Maria, his doctor wife, while Geraldine Chaplin has a cameo role as a lady who comforts one of their sons on a starlit night. MacGregor and Watts seem to suit their parts, but in a sense they are playing predictable roles. They become a couple literally torn apart, a father having to search among the debris for the remainder of his family and a mother who for much of the picture hovers close to death. The family's three sons are played by Tom Holland (Lucas), Samuel Joslin (Thomas) and Oaklee Pendergast (Simon). The two younger boys are cute as well as being effective, but that is not really a word that suits Tom Holland. The young British actor displays a surprising maturity and delivers a wonderfully measured performance, reminiscent of a younger Daniel Radcliffe. Despite the bigger names involved, it is his portrayal of Lucas that carries the picture since he is the hub around whom events revolve as the individual stories unfold. That is a lot to ask of a young actor, but Holland delivers.

No one story can ever do justice to the events of that day and the days that followed. Nor can a story set in just one location ever capture just how wide-ranging were the tsunami's effects. How can you tell the story of what happened almost simultaneously in Indonesia and India, Myanmar and Malaysia, and eventually affected even the African coast. Thankfully, Bayona doesn't try. He focuses on the few, hoping that through them audiences will better understand the tale of the many. For such a story, The Impossible is perhaps a more than fitting title, but the film works and gives a view that is both visually impressive and dramatically moving.

The Impossible premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2012. It will open in Spain on October 11, and go into general release in North America in the last week of December.

Ray Lahey
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Harrowing, emotional portrayal of a devastating event
parallel_projection6 January 2013
It would be impossible to try and capture the widespread loss and destruction of this horrible, devastating event. The scope was so large and far too many people lost their lives to even attempt to portray on film. Instead, director Juan Antonio Bayona and screenwriter Sergio G. Sánchez focused smartly on the true story of one family's struggle for survival amongst all that had happened on December 26th, 2004.

This allows the film to be much more intimate, and the audience is quickly able to connect with the Bennett family, starting simply with their arrival to Thailand. While the audience was filled with dread in anticipation of what was to come, the Bennetts were blissfully unaware and enjoying themselves over vacation. However, everything soon takes a terrifying turn as the tsunami hits their resort in a horrifyingly realistic manner, sweeping up people as they attempt to flee before it or protect themselves from its awesome power.

At this point, I, too, felt like I was drowning. The camera bobs in and out of darkness, in and out of the water, as the family's matriarch, Maria, struggles for breath. Then, clinging hopelessly onto a palm tree, she screams all too realistically for anyone who could possibly help her in a desperate, surprisingly shocking moment. It is at this point where she spots her son, Lucas, floating in the fierce waves, and I held my breath as the struggled for what seemed like an eternity to reunite in the water.

In a way, Lucas, brilliantly portrayed by newcomer Tom Holland, carries the film from this point forward. He takes on the role of protecting his stubborn yet badly injured mother, and in the process he's forced to mature far too quickly. During every moment, his emotions and facial expressions convey more than any words ever could, as she shies away from and is frightened by his mother's injuries and nudity, all the while attempting to deal with the scope of the pain and devastation.

However, it is his mother, Maria, whom the film truly centers around. Naomi Watts gives quite possibly her finest performances to date, portraying harrowing desperation, stubborn determination in the face of incredible pain and agony, and, ultimately, a sense of love and care despite her deteriorating state. True, she is bedridden for about half the film, but it is during this time where there are these small moments of tenderness and humility which undoubtedly makes Watts's performance one of the best of the year.

In fact, the entire cast was exceptional, including Ewan McGregor, the father desperately trying to put together his family again, and the two littlest sons, Thomas, played by Samuel Joslin, and Simon, played by Oaklee Pendergast, both of whose innocence prevented them from thoroughly capturing the extent of this tragic event. The story of these three is intertwined with that of Maria and Lucas, as they all struggle for survive amidst the destruction and reunite amidst the chaos.

Ultimately, this is a touching and heartwarming film, as the true kindness of humanity can be seen in this time of great loss. Yes, the tsunami is terrifying, the injuries gruesome and shockingly realistic, and the pain and suffering visible on just about everyone's faces. However, the Bennetts' story is a remarkable one of love, determination, and hope, and it simply cannot be missed.
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A Must See Movie
mrlmann127 November 2012
At first I did not think this movie was something I would like to see. I felt it would be one of those movies that once the disaster happened it would become dis-interesting and would be boring the second half of the movie. I am very happy I had the opportunity to see it. The only reason I did not give it a 10 was I thought the character build up was a little shallow. I would have liked to get know the family a little better before the disaster. Other than that I feel that the movie was fantastic. Once the inevitable happened the film kept my interest and was very compelling throughout. The special effects were realistic and not over done. I wish foreign movies like this would make a bigger release in the United States to show Hollywood how to make a movie especially a true story movie. I felt when I was watching this film that I was seeing it actually happening with no to very little exaggerations. That is where I feel Hollywood falls short and puts allot of drama in a film that really did not occur in the true event. If there were exaggerations in this movie they were seamless and not over done. If you have a chance to see this movie I feel it is "a must see movie" you will not be disappointed.
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Watts and Holland own it...One of the Best Pictures of the Year!
Clayton Davis28 September 2012
A film that captures real life the way J.A. Bayona captures it in his newest film The Impossible is a rare occurrence in filmmaking. Not only does he pay respect to the countless victims that were lost in the devastating tragedy, he makes artistic choices and liberties only the most seasoned directors can take. Starring Academy Award Nominee Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, the film tells the TRUE story about a family vacationing in Thailand when one of the worst natural disasters of our time separates them.

In the opening credits of the film, Bayona tells the audience that the story is true, but what may bother viewers and critics is how coincidental and inflated the story can seem. If it weren't in fact true, the film would fail within the first few moments. It's the notion that this did occur that demonstrates and heightens the execution of Bayona and writer Sergio G. Sanchez so brilliantly. The Impossible is the most emotional and devastating picture seen since Paul Greengrass' United 93 (2006). In the first several minutes, I was already in tears. Letting up only for short breaths, I feel like I didn't stop crying the entire time. I was invested, full body and soul, riding among the victims in a frightening state of mind. I could only imagine myself there, terrifyingly so and with appreciation now that I wasn't. The brave and committed performance by Naomi Watts is the miracle of the film and possibly the entire year. Watts falls into the role of "Maria" with perfect precision and accuracy. As a person who's only been a father for a year-and-a-half, Watts puts me right in the moment of unimaginable fear and pain. An Oscar-caliber turn as I've ever witnessed. The entire first half of the film is shared with Tom Holland, a child actor that can only be described as well beyond his years. Holland is motivated and equally as afflicting as Watts. A performance like his can only lead to more roles for him in the future. Ewan McGregor, who unbeknownst to me as gone this long without receiving any type of Oscar attention is pure magic. He shows an effortless approach as Henry, a father desperate to find his family. If there's one poor criticism about the film it's the first half of the film, where Holland and Watts dominate, is so gut-wrenching and brilliant that when McGregor and his story enter the screen, it unfortunately just pales by comparison. McGregor isn't given the most of character development to chew through but it's still an admirable work.

Cinematographer Oscar Faura's orange and yellow camera work demands the utmost attention from the viewer, gaining a near first-person view of what could have been. It's a technical achievement of the highest levels. Fernando Velasquez's somber score will only build the tears even more as your catapulted through this reenactment of terror. J.A. Bayona's direction is simplistic but delivered with reverence. A fine directorial turn.

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. I'll try to listen.

It's one of the best pictures of the year!

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Tearjerking; The Impossible
Chandru Bhojwani11 February 2013
On vacation at an exotic resort in Thailand, a family of 5 are torn apart by a large tsunami that rips the island apart. The mother, played by Naomi Watts and oldest of the three sons do their best to survive while the father, played by Ewan McGregor, juggles between the safety of his two boys and the search for his wife and missing son.

Director Juan Antonio Bayona vividly shares the shocking and yet, miraculous story of the Alvarez family. The cinematography when the tsunami sweeps in is nothing short of stunning and captivating. A glimpse of the sheer force and destruction behind this natural disaster will undoubtedly leave you breathless. Watts delivers a strong performance as does McGregor but the stand out here, besides the cinematography, is the brilliant and mature portrayal of the oldest son by young, Tom Holland.

An emotional tearjerker, The Impossible is a brilliant film, which will have you glued to the screen as you root against the odds while simultaneously fearing the worst. The fact that it's based on a true story is a testament of the human spirit and the bond of a family.

The Impossible is definitely one to watch.
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Realistic, bleak, but ultimately life-affirming.
Oliver Goddard5 January 2013
Disaster films have an odd reputation, often merely dismissed as popcorn fodder, so it's strange to have a film billed as such but to put character and drama over spectacle. Then again, as it's based on a true story, it's probably unfair to label 'The Impossible' as such a movie because the plight of the characters is at its heart throughout the entire duration. Perhaps this film is best described as a family drama with elements of disaster, then.

The Boxing Day tsunami was one of those events that put our lives into perspective, and the film achieves the same feat. Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts play the parents of three children who decide to spend an exotic Christmas in Thailand. Suitcases are unpacked, presents are exchanged, but the sense of impending disaster is overwhelmingly unsettling. When the inevitable does happen, the following 15 minutes are intense, realistic and terrifying; an onslaught of terrific practical effects and incredible sound design. However, after that concentrated outburst, the drama shifts down a gear to a more intimate, personal level, which is no less frightful.

That is why this film shines; it's about the smaller picture. By focusing on the survival of this one family rather than the scale of the event itself, a better, and more human, representation of the disaster is displayed. The performances from the central cast are nothing short of spectacular, especially Tom Holland, who carries the film for a hefty chunk of the running time with a gravitas that many older actors would fail to achieve.

Many criticisms have been made in the press about the anglicisation of the story; in reality, the family was Spanish. To me, that seemed to be a decision to globalise this story to the maximum amount of people, a decision that was warranted in my eyes. Thus, the main issue with the film was the score to be unnecessarily overriding in certain scenes, adding an unwanted sentimentality to the film. The scenes which worked best were confrontational, uncompromising and, you guessed it, without a swelling orchestra. Nevertheless, this is a minor gripe considering that this is a film where tears are wholeheartedly justified.

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An amazing story, but some questions about the telling
runamokprods6 December 2012
Amazing effects and stunts, along with and solid performances balance out some artistic lapses and ethical questions in this true story of one family's experiences of the horrendous Tsunami that killed 300,000.

The downsides; there's something a little off-putting about choosing a white, privileged family as a focus, while at the same time showing almost exclusively other white people as suffering and afraid in a disaster that killed far more local people than tourists. The Thai's are certainly shown in a good light, kindly helping all these suffering whites, but even in the hospital, almost every face we see in a bed is a white one. That hint of odd racial insensitivity is also underlined by replacing the original family, who were Spanish and dark, and making them into a gorgeous blond English family, a telling choice in a 'true' story.

On a more general level, the film can feel manipulative, from the tear jerking score, to the multiple carefully framed "will they spot each other?" shots that feel like a horror film's self-conscious suspense fames, but that cinematic technique feels distractingly artificial in this more naturalistic setting.

There's no question it's exciting and at times quite moving, but I couldn't help thinking I might have felt even more deeply if it wasn't pushing so hard to control my emotions.
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emotional roller-coaster - but average script
Andrew Tilling7 February 2013
I watched The Impossible with a clear intention to remain a little emotionally detached. I knew from the trailer that a disaster was imminent from the word go, so I braced myself for impact and kept my fingers crossed that Ewan Mcgregor was going to give more than the lack luster performance that i feel like I've been growing accustomed to. Okay, so i was crying from about 10 minutes into the film. While McGregor is credible, although still not a return to form, the real performance here is from Naomi Watts. She is gripping to watch, and lends credibility to the rest of the cast as she watches the world fall apart around her. I winced, squirmed and spent many minutes forgetting to breathe. An emotional roller-coaster which, while somewhat lacking in depth in storyline, more than makes up for it with a strong edit. Great job with an average script.
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Brutal at times despite its problems (SPOILERS)
bob the moo10 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
At some point there was going to be a big budget film about this tragedy, so to hear there was one was not a surprise nor something that upset me since it was always coming. The film is based on the true story of a Spanish family who somehow managed to survive the disaster, finding each other and making it home alive, although here the family are played as English but they are the focal point. We waste very little time at the start in setting the characters before they get hit by a wall of special effects in a sequence that is impacting, upsetting and incredibly tense.

Visually there are some weaknesses in the effects but the camera-work covers a lot of them and the sound editing does the rest. In fact it is unfair to list the sound at the end of that sentence like an afterthought, because the sound in this sequence is amazing – it is everywhere and it is terrifying, even on a home stereo it still works. This is the real core of the film and it delivers because it stays with you the rest of the film as it should. From here the focus is more on the human tragedy, separated families, death, lack of information and so on. This aspects also works pretty well and is greatly helped by strong performances from Watts and McGregor but more importantly from the three boys, who are convincing throughout the film.

It is not without problems though. The focus on one family and their (comparatively) happy ending is a necessary evil, but it is still an "evil" in terms of the saying. The film spends a lot of time with holiday makers and westerners and not much with those living and working there; they are visible sure, but not much more that than. The decision to switch nationalities seems pointless and I'm not sure why they did it – they could easily have made the film in English with Spanish actors without it being less accessible and still appealing to the American market. This doesn't matter too much – but it does feel odd. Considering how well it impacts at some points, I also didn't understand why at other times it feels the need to really syrup on the emotion; the music is just what you expect and it comes up just when you know it will and it stirs upwards telling you what to feel; personally I didn't need it and it felt heavy handed too often.

That said, it is still an impacting film and is worth a look. It does have problems but mostly it gets past them by virtue of the subject matter and the mostly strong delivery. This film was always going to be made and for sure it could have been a lot weaker than this.
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A Near Perfect Tear-Jerk Thriller
The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami is brought to shockingly realistic life in J. A. Bayona's ten minute sequence near the beginning of the harrowing true-life survival tale, "The Impossible." With little to no CGI and using mostly scale models and a giant water tank, Bayona throws the viewers into the wave along with stars Naomi Watts (astonishing) and young Tom Holland (revelatory as Watts' son). Told from the point of view of a family on holiday in Thailand, the story makes for a riveting family-centered emotional drama. The rest of the cast is outstanding as well, and there's a strong humanist approach applied to depicting this wide-spread multi-national disaster.

It might pull on the heartstrings a bit "too much" in some sequences, but the manipulation is apt in telling this real-life drama.

Overall - an unforgettable, draining but uplifting film experience.

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Strong Emotional Journey
Greg11 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Another of the many World Premieres showcasing at the Toronto International Film Festival with hopes of Oscar glory is, The Impossible, the true story of a family's struggle to reunite after being violently separated when the tsunami hit the beach of sun soaked Thailand in 2004. The film stars Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts as the two parents of three young boys that were vacationing in Thailand over Christmas when the tsunami devastated the country and shocked the world. With a prerequisite set-up of the main characters, the tsunami hits early in The Impossible and packs an incredible punch. As the wave crashes through the hotels pool area and sweeps away the five members of the family, we watch in terror as Maria (Watts) and Lucas (Tom Holland) struggle to stay above the raging water and within arms lengths of each other. Once the water settles, the badly injured Maria and Lucas begin a journey of survival without knowledge as to the fate of the missing three members of the family. Lucas is forced to mature beyond his years and assist in getting his mother to a hospital for immediate emergency attention and is the key to the more emotional scenes that conclude the film. The Impossible is only the second film made using new 3-D sound technology (the film is in 2-D) and the crashing and fast flowing water sequences can be heard, and almost felt, throughout the entire theatre. When not fully engrossed in our characters' plights and emotionally tied to their survival, we are thoroughly repulsed by the graphic scenes of bodily destruction that blood soak the screen. Director J.A. Bayona is no stranger to horrific make-up effects as he was the genius behind the camera for The Orphanage (2007) and he pulls no punches here. Some audience members were seen turning their heads unable to ingest the graphic nature of effects and few were even seen exiting while the scenes played out in long detail. Thanks to the trailers, we know (generally) how the movie concludes. But just like Ron Howard's masterful Apollo 13, J.A. Bayona still keeps us at the edge of our seats even with an ending that is both clear and true to the original story. The Impossible does have its shot at some Awards glory. Watts and McGregor pull off incredibly emotional and physical scenes and films that deal with real life tragedy and the human spirit that overcomes those tragedies usually find favour with award voters. But whether or not The Impossible gets any gold plated hardware it does not take away from the tiring and emotional journey that audiences will take with their characters. The Impossible is the best depiction yet of the Indian Ocean tsunami and the horrors that succeeded it. It is also one of the best movies we have seen so far this year. Packed with equal scenes of tearful drama and graphic horrors. And although the wave is the catalyst that propels the plot, the characters are so strong that the big wave that hits the resort will hardly be the thing you most remember.
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Emotional and Epic
San Toki6 January 2013
With it being a New Year, I thought I'd go and see a comedy to kick off the 2013 film season. Unfortunately there wasn't any comedies showing at my Cinema so I ended up seeing this film about the 2004 South-East Asian Tsunami which killed over 250,000 people and displaced millions. Not what I had in mind as a cheery film, but oh well....

So basically we have a family that include married couple Henry and Maria Bennett (played Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts), a classic middle- class couple, as suggested by the fact they spend most their time on the plane travelling to Thailand worrying if they set the alarm to their house back in Japan, and also their three sons all string sentences together without saying ''Bruv'' or ''Innit'', so they must be Middle- Class. Anyway the family arrive at their resort in Thailand, and all is going pleasantly when.....yes arriving in spectacular fashion, almost like the rise of Godzilla, the Tsunami arrives and decimates everything in site. The family is split in the wreckage of it all and the film then deals with them all trying ti locate each other, if they all managed to survive that is....

The film was actually very good, a simple search story made gargantuan by the amazing effects used to portray the actual Tsunami, it literally comes at such a speed and power that leaves you in bewilderment and gives you a better idea that news reports of what it was all like at the time. They also have the classic ''Titanic'' Hollywood orchestra as the soundtrack whilst this is happening just to add to the emotional intensity, alongside top notch acting from McGregor, Watts and Tom Holland as 12 year old son Lucas. The main complaint, and flaw of the film, however lies in the fact we hardly see any actual Asian people, in a film about an Asian tragedy. The main Asians in the film are tribesmen and doctors who seem unable to apply composure or logic to any of the hectic situations occurring, we don't see any Asian characters searching frantically for loved ones or showing pain at losing those they love, unlike our Western Heroes here.

So overall, aside from the debatable premise of casting for the film, which you'd expect from Hollywood, it remains a good, epic, emotional film if you watch it for what it is.

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Lots of Suspense, Not a Complete Success
gavin69423 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
An account of a family caught, with tens of thousands of strangers, in the mayhem of one of the worst natural catastrophes of our time.

First, let us talk about the Oscar nomination for Naomi Watts. I get it. She did a fine job here looking beat up and nearly dead. That probably deserves a nomination. But her performance is overshadowed by that of the young Tom Holland, who received no such nomination. So, to me, if he is not eligible, she should not win. Is that fair? Maybe, maybe not. But that is how I feel -- Tom Holland carried this picture.

Beyond that, I have mixed feelings. The tsunami effects were incredible and I really felt the panic involved. But we have here an English family that gets separated -- and they all survive and become reunited within one or two days (I am a bit fuzzy on the timeline). Sure, this really happened (although the family was Spanish -- and I find it odd that a Spanish production company did not use Spanish actors). But it seems too clean, even with all the danger and death.

Sure, the film is "the impossible", which would imply that this should not have happened but did. Yet, to put a basically happy ending on a tragedy that killed 230,000 people seems insulting to me. Apparently others have called it "whitewashed". I do not think that is the case -- that term is too extreme -- but I have to wonder why we have to focus on a family who seemingly came out unscathed. Where is a family that did not?

Roger Ebert gave the film a perfect rating and called it "one of the best films of the year". This to me signals Ebert's growing disconnect with reality. If he means "one of the 50 best", then yes. But I assume he means more like ten best, and that is just plain wrong.
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Black Hawk Down
tieman6430 December 2012
Warning: Spoilers
"Sufficiently advanced negligence is indistinguishable from malice." - Virginia Fell

December 26th, 2004. An earthquake in the Indian Ocean unleashes a violent tsunami. 50 foot waves hurtle toward Indonesia, Thailand, Sir Lanka and India. Coastal regions surrounding the Indian Ocean are devastated. Hundreds of thousands die or go missing. Millions are left homeless. As is always the case with natural disasters, the poor and the marginalised suffer the most, losing their lives, homes, possessions and/or livelihoods. When the waters recede, thousands more die due to contaminated drinking water and disease.

Within 15 minutes of the earthquake, the American weather bureau in Hawaii warns 26 countries to expect an imminent tsunami radiating from the quake's epicentre. None of the countries finally affected are deemed worthy of being notified. The Japanese weather bureau detects the quake but likewise fails to pass on its information. The Indian Air Force receives news of the quake/tsunami, but this news gets lost in bureaucracy and is not passed on. Thailand is alerted but officials dare not launch a national alert for fear of causing panic. Two years prior to the tsunami, the Inter-Governmental Oceanographic Commission predicts a possible quake/tsunami in the region and stresses the need to put in place early detection networks. Because Member States all view national tsunami warning and mitigation facilities as being "unprofitable", the Commission's cautions are ignored. Had the 2004 tsunami occurred in the Pacific Ocean, it would have been detected by the international tsunami warning system.

In the years leading up to the tsunami, environmentalists warn that the destruction of each country's "bio-shields" will exasperate the damage done by future tsunamis. They're ignored. Considered impediments to the South Asian economy, miles of coral reef are destroyed (via dynamite) and miles of coastal mangrove culled, all to make way for shipping lanes, shrimp farms, aquaculture industries and other economic choices (Thailand has lost half its mangrove cover over the past 2 decades). As predicted, areas stripped of their "natural" defences are hit the hardest by the tsunami. Where the mangrove/coral fields were left intact, no lives were lost and little damage done. To satiate economic interests, the poor, living precariously on the water's edge, are deemed a rational sacrifice. Following the tsunami, the damaged land – now "devalued" - is gobbled up by wealthy investors. The poor are pushed even further out and the strategically grabbed land reallocated for future tourism development.

Juan Bayona's "The Impossible", a film about the 2004 tsunami, bills itself as a film about "the triumph of the human spirit in the face of adversity". It was the "human spirit" that caused the adversity, but let's ignore that. Let's focus instead on some white tourists. They're played by Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, a British (?) couple who travel to Thailand with their two sons. On the way to their hotel, Watts reads some Joseph Conrad ("Heart of Darkness", "Typhoon"?), presumably because she loves symbolism. After much foreshadowing, a series of monster waves descend upon our white family. 300,000 deaths later, and the couple's son learns to be less of a jerk. The family hug and fly back to Disneyland, leaving Thailand behind. Things work out pretty well for them.

The film pretends to be about "universal goodwill", about how "tragedy brings people together". It's mostly relentlessly dehumanising. People do not matter unless they're white, the film filled with white victims and the white dispossessed. Local characters are either invisible or reduced to a couple rescue units at the bidding of white sufferers. Whilst many have complained that our foregrounded characters are white, that's not really the problem. The problem's that background characters are likewise. The fact that the vast majority of the dead, injured and displaced were Asian never registers. This has an interesting effect. In the way the film panders to white audiences whilst pretending to be about the universality of suffering, its message becomes, unconsciously, that nobody cares, and that target audiences identify only with their own. It's not economically feasible to cater to the Other. Of course it's fitting that a film about universal goodwill largely ignores the suffering of non-white characters. The real life event hinged on a similar social dismissal. A film about the plight of wealthy, vacationing Westerners which turns a blind eye to the deaths of thousands of locals perfectly sums up the lesson of the tsunami itself; they don't matter.

The film's built upon your typical Hollywood/Spielberg disaster/history movie formula ("Schindler", "Deep Impact" etc). We're reduced to being made to empathise with a handful of souls and then positioned to celebrate when our chosen few escape the fate of thousands around them. The formula works well as popcorn – it ably resorts to the usual shock tactics and horror clichés - but is also crass: we have to cheaply kill/maim others in order to engender the basest of emotions. Along the way we ourselves are dehumanised, made complicit in dehumanising those who are sacrificed for closure and our chosen few. McGregor would defend the film's racial politics by comparing criticisms levelled against it to those levelled against "Black Hawk Down". But "Down" was a sinister, similarly racist film which posited American Colonialists as victims of a historical situation in which they were precisely the victimisers, responsible for all manners of evil, namely backing brutal puppet dictators (Siad Barre et al), destabilising (and waging proxy wars with) Somlia and Ethiopia, genocide, bankrupting Somalia, manufacturing famine, assassinating revolutionary leaders, engendering untold amounts of bloodshed, arming psychos, enforcing media blackouts and waging a secret war on the democratically elected Islamic Courts Union for the specific aim of stopping any semblance of nationhood in Somalia (all at the behest of Conoco, Amoco, Chevron, Phillips etc). "Black Hawk Down's" not a defence, it's the problem.

6/10 – Generic, well acted, white-centric, self-absorbed FX porn. Needs a laugh track and Morgan Freeman giving his "Deep Impact" speech in front of a Thai Restaurant.
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must see movie
ashishshevale23 February 2013
The movie shows the true event in a touching way.

Everyone knows about the tsunami through news but this movie will take you there and let you feel it.

This true story actually connects you with the people undergone and who have withstood this tragedy.

Though this shows story of single family with an happy ending you can still be able to imagine the grief of people who weren't so lucky after all.

This real story movie gives us a perspective to live our self sufficient and blessed life happy
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Made me feel ashamed
fewsternoble13 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers

Just seen this last night, and i felt it deserved a few words from me as it made me feel so angry and ashamed to come from the "west". An awful lot of people died in this tragedy yet they happen to make a film about a western family of 5 and they all survive, and to top it all off they fly off in what is essentially a private flight out of the country at the end. It was soppy beyond belief, the acting was second class, with the child actor playing Thomas saying lines that were so unbelievable and contrived. As a film it certainly had me thinking, to the point that i had to have my say, i honestly can't recommend this to anyone. There must have been so many tragic stories from this event, to put this forward as representative of this event is insulting to all those that have suffered.
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I registered with IMDb just to leave this review
Pat Collins23 April 2013
I have relied on IMDb for years to help me choose movies to rent and download. Never have I seen user reviews so good for a movie so bad. This is a B-movie which shares many qualities with the average low- budget horror flick.

The temporary suffering of a rich white family is graphically overexposed. The viewer is left to wince in pain at every gory detail as the vacationers deal selfishly with the disaster.

Characters are occasionally heroic, but usually stupid, and always end up in ridiculously convenient situations. Almost nothing is learned about the multitudes of real people who were affected by this tragedy.

There is only one scene worth watching... where the husband borrows a cell phone. Even that scene ends in a way that seems phony and smarmy.

This has a 7.6 rating? I can only imagine that many people are sympathetic to the victims of the disaster and refuse to dis on a movie based on that.
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Could Have Been Told A Lot Better
Theo Robertson20 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This telling about the 2004 tsunami that killed in excess of 250,000 people hit both critical acclaim and controversy when it was released . Naomi Watts was Oscar nominated as best actress but there were some outcries that the characters had been changed from Spanairds to Anglo-Saxons for no good reason . This wasn't a case of arrogant Hollywood changing characters in order to bring audience identification to a true life story because THE IMPOSSIBLE is in fact a Spanish film with a Spanish production team and one wonders why the producers couldn't have put some native Spanairds in front of the camera ? Would the film have suffered if we had Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz playing Henry and Maria ? There wouldn't have even needed to speak in their native tongues

Where THE IMPOSSIBLE does succeed is in the devastating spectacle of the tsunami itself which has to be seen to be believed and is a technical miracle in film making . The fall out from this tidal wave which ended hundreds of thousands of human lives is well realised but from a dramatic point of view is very flawed . You see both Maria and her son Lucas both survive the disaster and are separated from Henry and the two other sons Tomas and Simon who believe Maria and Lucas are dead . Of course the audience know they aren't which means we're one step ahead of Henry . Put it like this - the story would have worked much , much better if the story had been told entirely through Henry's eyes where the audience are put through his point of view where he believes his wife and son are dead only to have to the audience to experience great joy at the end when he finds out Maria and Lucas have survived . It might have meant Naomi Watts missing out on an Oscar nomination but would have made for a more dramatic film . As it stands Watts performance and the tsunami scene are by far the best things about a film that's not as good as it could have been
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I hated myself for watching this egotistic rubbish
Giorgio Laezza25 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Convinced by friends and a 7.6/10 rating I decided to watch the impossible. I would have loved to have a camera on me to watch back my facial expression change as the story unfolded. Eventually, when the film ended I simply hated myself for glorifying such self-centered middle-class rubbish. Basically, this is the story a rich white family that lost their luggage and had to search for each other for a couple of days to then fly away in a private jet arranged by their insurance company. After the film I decided to document myself a little further, hoping to be wrong about the whole thing and watched, amongst other footage, an interview with the mother of the actual family. This only confirmed what I suspected. The part of the interview that did it for me is when the mother recalls the following: The film was shot during dry season and yet it was raining a lot and the director was getting restless because of this. The mother spoke to the director and told him that it was OK, that he did not have to worry, all that rain were the hundreds of thousand of tsunami victims crying. Since then I can't stop hating myself for feeding this egotistic rubbish.
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They forgot the tsunami
jsjeffjeff13 January 2013
I just don't understand how this movie got good reviews.

Imagine if James Cameron had filmed The Titanic entirely as closeups of people suffering in the hallways!!! Thats how the makers of The Impossible would have done The Titanic!!!! Closeups of people suffering as the hallways filled with water, then closeups of people suffering in lifeboats. With an initial 10 second opening shot of the ship, the ocean and other passengers.

I expected that this movie would be about one family's experiences set against a backdrop of unique natural tragedy that caused 400,000 deaths and left 500,00 homeless. After all, thats what made their story unique. Unfortunately the makers of this film pretty much omitted the tsunami from this movie. Also omitted, the ocean, beaches and all the people in Asia.

While the actual tsunami was a natural catastrophe of epic proportions, occurring in one of the worlds most exotic, beautiful and tranquil locations, the tsunami is only seen in this film as a wave entering the swimming pool area of the hotel.

After that its pretty much all closeups of Naomi Watts suffering and screaming. Except for the cuts and bruises, she could be in any puddle of water, say in a bad rain at a Florida Motel. Strangely, even though hundreds of thousands of other people were swept away, Watts is always alone, under muddy water, walking out of a swamp, sitting in a tree. She and her son are pretty much the only ones in the first half of the movie. Nor are there any buildings, cars, or anything else that might have been hit by the wave.

When she reaches the hospital there are a couple of dozen extras to represent the million people injured and dead. The hospital scene could have been filmed on Saturday night at any Brooklyn Hospital except that, in the movie, the scene was too calm. After 45 minutes of this we get closeups of Ewan McGregor yelling and suffering. Thats pretty much it, yelling and suffering, with cameras on their faces, almost never a reference to the scale and circumstances of the unique and colossal tragedy thats the basis for this film. We're left with one family having a bad day somewhere with palm trees.
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Sentimental glop -
gw-6211 January 2013
Tsunami hits, 240k people die, let's make a movie about the rich British family who suffer horrible trauma (injuries! non permanent, tho...separation! for a few days...fatigue! dirt!) and who manage, somehow, to piece their lives back together once reunited, whisked by private plane covered by insurance to Singapore for medical care, then home to UK to resume their luxe little lives. OK, good for them, comes of living in the 1st world, having tons of disposable income, etc. But it makes for a boring movie, which it shouldn't have been since it's based on real events. I kept waiting to FEEL something, at least something other than wow! at the special effects. A much more interesting focus would be to delve into the lives of some of the local populace, the ones not-so-rich, not-so-white, no-so-insured. The ones, say, who lost homes, families, communities, livelihoods, health, virtually EVERYTHING that matters, and somehow neglected to have some Zurich-based insurance company covering all misfortunes. That scenario happened too, for real - and in numbers vastly surpassing the Tourist Trauma that is all this pricey film appears to care about. Those stories would be vastly more interesting, and would have made a far superior film.
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A bit too disappointing...
daisy_chocolate3722 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Me and my family bought the DVD to this after my sister raved about how good it was... That was a waste of money...

We had seen the trailer and thought it was going to be really good, but trailers can be misleading and in this case, the trailer made a better film than the actual one. Personally I don't think that any of the actors did very well, especially the main boy. Also, we keep getting told that it is based on a true story, but the actual family is Spanish, not a rich, white, privileged family who get seen first in a hospital full of people dying and get given their own special room even though the hospital is bursting for space.

I have to admit that I did cry, but I think that was more of the fact that so many people died in real life, not the fact that they got a private jet home perfectly fine. It was a sad storyline, but i found it hard to connect with any of the characters on any level, or empathise with any of them because they just annoy you so much by the end.

Overall, it's a really bad film with a story based on coincidences we are supposed to believe. To be honest, I would rather have seen what had happened to the guy who lost his family on the beach.
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Honestly and truthfully - it's shockingly awful
info-579-16933512 January 2013
This is my very first review on IMDb. Without doubt this site is the most reliable source for honest film reviews and in my opinion anything rated 7 or above is well worth watching. Until now that is. This film, currently rated a whopping 7.7 is in fact unbelievably bad. Like you would not believe. And right from the off. Wooden acting from McGregor and Watts is simply terrible, throughout. Either I must be missing something, give the startling reviews, or, more likely the reviews are based on sentiment given the tragic loss of life from recent tsunamis. The story line is also highly implausible. How is it that first class actors and a director with at least one excellent film to his name (Orphanage) can be happy with this production? Given the basis of the story it can't not be nominated for any awards. But it ain't gonna win any, and thats for sure.
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Nothing to see here, keep walking...
yipiha18 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I won't discuss the racism, it has been expressed enough by other commentators. What shocked me the most was the stupidity of the characters - a useful tool to create suspenseful situation when nothing justify watchers keeping interest in what is going on.


When the first wave arrives, the eldest screams 'Dad' while the dad shouts 'Lucas'. Running away, in silence, is somewhat out of the question. The mother clutches the book she was reading as a protection. After saving themselves, the oldest boy and the mother decide to climb a tree (you have just wasted 10 minutes of your life watching this part). Why? There is no water, the efforts she has to make are incredibly painful and walking further would probably be a better option. They save a little boy (hidden under a very heavy pack of straws) but forget him when they are brought to the hospital. There the oldest son looses track of his mother twice: first, he watches television (they are saying a massive tsunami just killed a lot of people). Second, he runs errands for other victims (his mother asks him to help other people). Rather than telling him where she was moved to or inquiring further about him, a nice nurse sticks a 'orphan' sticker to his chest. When the staff realize they might have the boy of a parent under surgery, they first ask him to repeat his name, then to recognize jewelery - was it to confirm or infirm whose kid he was? Saying 'we think we can bring you to your mum' never occur to them. 'Not saying it' must have been the scenarists motto.

Meanwhile the dad saved his two younger sons. And as the hotel where they stayed is evacuated, he leaves them with nice people, in a truck to a shelter in the mountains, to look for wife and first-born by himself. At night. On the devastated beach. After 10 minutes of fruitless calling, he ends up in a post-traumatic therapy group where he can borrow a phone and call his family in Europe.

So for no real reason the dad, the mum, the 2 younger boys and the oldest one are separated. The last 20 minutes are about nearly seeing each other but somehow looking just the other way at the wrong time. They each do finally meet up after much near misses (the eldest son shouts 'Dad' in an overcrowded hospital rather than the name of his father - the two boys keep calling for the oldest one, who takes a whole minute to turn around and as they don't get down from the truck, it might go away at any time!).

This movie is an insult to your common sense . Pass the word.
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Spectacular as well dramatic story based on facts and masterfully directed by Juan Antonio Bayona
ma-cortes25 November 2013
In 2004 , a devastating tsunami hit southeast Asia , this is one family's true story of survival . The story of a tourist family (the family on which this story is based upon were present during the whole shooting process) in Thailand , they are an ordinary family called Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts previously had an on-screen relationship in ¨Stay¨, 2005) and their three kids travel to Thailand to spend Christmas . Then they are caught in the destruction and chaotic aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami . It follows Maria and her son Lucas (Tom Holland) , not knowing where is the father and if two younger sons are dead or alive . However , nothing is more powerful than the human spirit. Who will survive ?

It's a grade A picture , a gem , absorbing , riveting , highly moving , incredibly tense . This is a psychological/survival/thrilling drama in which a family enjoying their holiday become involved into a terrible tragedy . It is a smart and sensitive thriller filled with intense drama , thrills , emotion , tear-jerker and pretty entertaining though overlong . This nail-biter is a tightly-knit drama centered on the relentless survival-fight , as it follows the seriously wounded Maria/Naomi Watts and her eldest son Lucas/Tom Holland , as they struggle to safety . The picture makes up for it with an evolving atmosphere of anxiety and fear . Everything in Juan Antonio Bayona 's impressive film looks so real that you might think it's a high resolution videotape of a tsunami . The crew filmed partially on location at the actual resort, since rebuilt, where the Belon family was vacationing when the tsunami hit ; for the tsunami destruction scenes, a scaled model of the resort was used . Interesting screenplay by Sergio G. Sánchez from a story by María Belón and being based upon on true events , as the real family that the main characters are based on are in fact Spanish but living in Japan at the time of the Tsunami and many of the extras are actual survivors of the tsunami . Lavishly produced by Enrique López Lavigne , Jaime Ortiz de Artiñano , Javier Ugarte and Belen Atienza, in fact , the producers of the film heard an interview on Spanish radio where the family told their story of surviving the Tsunami and decided to make a film based on it. Top-notch acting by Naomi Watts , for the underwater scenes, Naomi was strapped in a rotating chair , while filming, Watts couldn't hold her breath any longer and she gave the 'stop' sign. Instead of stopping, the chair started spinning the other way around . Later it was revealed that it was a technical error and Watts stated the she felt very scared and hated the chair for that reason. There is the urgent hand-held camera-work, a trademark refined and perfected by cameraman Oscar Faura , which lends an air of pseudo-documentary authenticity to carefully staged reconstructions, putting us right there in the huddle of the action . Furthermore , an emotive as well as enjoyable musical score by Fernando Velazquez .

The motion picture was compellingly directed by Juan Antonio Bayona who proved his usual aesthetics and nail-biting filmmaking as well as he formerly made in ¨the orphanage¨ . In this excellent film of 2013 , Bayona has directed 1 actress to an Academy Award-nominated performance: Naomi Watts (Best Actress, Lo impossible or the impossible (2012). Rating : Above average , a magnificent film . Essential and indispensable seeing . The picture will appeal to Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor fans .
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