The Impossible is the dramatised recreation of the real-life events experienced by María Belón. Maria and her family survived one of the most horrific disasters of the twenty-first century. On the 26th December 2004, a massive earthquake hit deep in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Thailand. This resulted in a tsunami consisting of waves that reached as high as 100ft. Engulfing heavily populated areas, and killing well over two hundred thousand people, it leaves total devastation in its wake.
That year, Maria and her family took a Christmas holiday at the Thailand resort of Khao Lak. They were having a wonderful family day at the pool when the tsunami hit. The colossal force of the water separated the family and badly injured Maria. Resulting in a hellish fight for survival for the whole family from the overwhelming mass of death and destruction.
The Impossible is a heavily dramatised version of the events. Also, the film did get a little criticism for the casting of a British family when Maria Belón and her family are Spanish. However, the story does follow Maria's story in a very respectful way. The director Juan Antonio García Bayona does an exceptional job of recreating the terror and the chaos. For me, The Impossible was the first film from him that I had seen. But it has to be said, he is a true master of his craft. He has since gone on to direct cinematic masterpieces such as A Monster Calls. His choice to use limited CGI really ads to the realism and sets The Impossible apart from the many trashy disaster movies made.
However, the real standout comes from the amazing performance of the lead cast members. There is not one weak acting performance from any of them. Ewan McGregor delivers a passionate, intimately powerful performance that captures the real desperation of the moment. Naomi Watts is outstanding playing Maria and is involved in some quite horrific scenes. But arguably is at her career-best here. Her performance received nominations for a Golden Globe and an Oscar. However, the biggest surprise comes from the two-child stars Tom Holland and Samuel Joshlin. Holland is nothing short of amazing and both have gone onto extend their careers after The Impossible.
This is an extremely traumatic event to bring to the screen. In fact, the intensity can really be unbearable at points. The audience is exposed violently to the experiences of each family member. On top of that, Juan Antonio García Bayona does not shy away from the sheer massive scale of death and loss. But all of this is compounded heavily due to the fact that what you are seeing is based on the true experiences of Maria's family.
All in all, The Impossible is appealing as a piece of cinema for many different reasons. This is way more than just a disaster movie. Yes, if that's your thing, you will love it. But for me, this is easily one of the most intensely powerful survival stories I have ever seen. Top that off with some stellar acting and The Impossible is a must-watch, that's if you can bear the intensity and the horror that unfolds.