The Impossible: Why You Need to See It This Weekend

I saw The Impossible over winter break with my mom. I was trying to find an excuse to see a movie at AMC’s Fork and Screen theaters, and the day before I left, this came out as one of the options. It had been on my list to go see, and I have to say it was pretty fantastic. Here’s the trailer below to give you some background. I don’t want you to feel as if I’m spoiling anything major- a lot of plot points are already in the preview- but if you like to go into a movie knowing anything, than feel free to skip my review.

The Impossible is based on the true story of a Spanish family vacationing Thailand when the 2004 tsunami hit the country. The film starts with the family on the plane and a short collection of scenes of their vacation to sort out for the audience who’s who and the relationships between the parents and three sons. Pretty soon, though, it’s the day of the tsunami. As an audience member, you just feel this sense of dread as you wait for it to happen. The wind picks up, electricity goes off, the ground shakes a little, and a swarm of birds starts heading away from the beach. You have about as much time as the family does to realize this is it just as the wave hits.

the impossible wave

The screen goes black when the wave is actually going to hit the family, and then reappears as Naomi Watts, who plays the mom, is clinging to a tree in the midst of rapids screaming as loud as she can. She sees her oldest son, Lucas (played by Tom Holland), rush past her as the rapids carry him away. She immediately lets go and swims after him, and the next 10 minutes is torture as you watch the two get so close and then separated and then so close again. Watts gets impaled by branches, Holland gets violently pushed underwater and bangs his heads on loose objects, and you, as an audience member, pretty much wince every two seconds and start drawing your knees into your chest as a coping device.

impossible mom and son

This panic eventually subsides as the pair are finally able to reach each other in the water and find land (still flooded, but at least able to stand in). This is when Lucas starts becoming the hero of the whole movie. He recognizes early that his mom’s injuries are life threatening and that he will very quickly need to become the caretaker. He watches over his mom and summons up immense emotional and physical strength to get her to safety.

The dad, played by Ewan McGreggor, doesn’t appear until about halfway through the movie. Instead of doing side by side story lines, the movie goes back to the beginning (right after the wave) to show you what became of the dad and the other two boys. All three are together and relatively unharmed, but the dad feels the need to keep looking for Lucas and his wife.

impossible dad and kids

The final act of the film then flips around from Lucas to the dad. Lucas is trying to save his mom and also come to terms with the fact that he may become an orphan. The dad is shown searching through hospitals and dead bodies on his quest to find his remaining family members. He breaks down a few times thinking his search might be in vain, especially one poignant scene while on the phone with his dad. I thought it was interesting to show the different viewpoints of the tragedy and how various rescue efforts were handled. I’m pretty sure any doctor who survived did not sleep at all that week.

Warning: This movie is extremely stressful and emotional. My mom cried through a lot of it. I didn’t because I had more knowledge of the true story behind it, and I kind of felt too much panic to give into crying. My mom mentioned it reminded her of Titanic (the scenes post-iceberg), which I agree with. It balances compelling characters with this catastrophic event setting in a way that keeps you engaged with the film the whole time. I never felt as though they spent too long on action sequences because even those were motivated by characters.

the impossible naomi watts

Naomi Watts has received a lot of praise for her role in the film (she’s nominated for an Oscar). She is the heart of the whole story, and seemed to basically get the crap beaten out of her in this film (I can’t wait for this to come out on DVD because I would love to see “making of” footage!). However, I thought Tom Holland was just as excellent, if not even more central to the story line. This kid has a LOT of screen time, and does some pretty amazing things for a 10-year-old. I kept thinking of my fourth graders, and if they would have been as brave as this character if faced with the same situation. It’s pretty crazy.

Anyway, please go see this movie over the weekend. It hasn’t gotten a ton of publicity, but it is incredible. It will be one of those films that stays with you for a long time, that gives you that rare sad and happy ending, and makes you appreciate life and the loved ones you share it with.

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