Movies: The Impossible

First, in the very early minutes of December 26, 2004, an earthquake — the third largest ever recorded on a seismograph — registering 9.3 on the Richter Scale and lasting between eight and 10 minutes, hit just off the west coast of Sumatra. That created a tsunami that, according to the US Geological Survey, killed a total of 227,898 people in 14 countries, the vast majority of them in Indonesia.

In the calm before the storm, Maria (Naomi Watts) and her husband Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their three boys (from left): Oaklee Pendergast, Tom Holland and Samuel Joslin) enjoy their holiday in Thailand.
Photo: Jose Haro, © 2012 Summit Entertainment, LLC.

The Impossible is a very well done, gripping movie that tells the story of Maria (Naomi Watts) and Henry (Ewan McGregor), a British couple living in Japan who take their children Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast) on a Christmas holiday vacation in a deluxe beach resort in Thailand in 2004.

Theirs is a typical family. Maria is a physician who gave up her practice when Henry’s job is transferred to Japan. The boys are like boys everywhere. They laugh and bicker and, generally, have a good time. They have their Christmas gifts then next day waken to lovely weather well-suited to beach or pool. There’s a strange sense to the air and the wind picks up. Then we see the wave — a gray wall of water rushing inexorably toward the land and, in this instance, toward to family we’re just getting to know.

The family is separated, two boys with the father, the other finding his mother. It is a harrowing, heartbreaking time. They all see — and share with us — the death and destruction wrought by the storm. Watts and McGregor are the essence of loving parents trying to make the the world whole again for themselves and their children.

The cast, especially Watts, McGregor and young Tom Holland, are wonderful. We feel their fear, anger and frustration as if it were ours.

Director Juan Antonio Bayona has crafted a movie that takes us to its time and place and we feel what the family feels. Writer Sergio G. Sánchez worked with Maria Bélon, whose family’s true story this is.

The Impossible is a taut, terrific and very well-done movie. It is deserving of the honors it is accumulating.