The Impossible (2012)
Sure, I’ve seen lots of movies that gave me chills.. and they usually are the ones that are based on true events but I’ve never seen a movie that actually sent shivers down my spine right from the very beginning until the last second of the movie. ‘The Impossible’ is without a doubt one of the most gut-wrenching movies you’ll ever see and it’s really tough to watch at times.
The movie takes us back to December 2004, when a family decides to spend their Christmas holidays in Khao Lak, Thailand. On the plane we are introduced to the Bennetts: Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan McGregor),12-year old Lucas (Tom Holland), 7-year old Tomas (Samuel Joslin) and 5-year old Simon (Oaklee Pendergast). As the roaring sounds of the airplane quickly transform into the quiet sounds of the beautiful nature in Khao Lak, you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of how breathtaking Thailand is.
However, what seems to be like the perfect holiday suddenly turns into a nightmare. As the family is enjoying some fun times at the pool, they suddenly notice a shift in the weather. The wind starts to blow more heavily, birds are frantically flying away and the threatening sound of the ocean approaches with rapid speed. It’s a matter of seconds before the Tsunami hits the resort and the Bennetts are separated from each other.
What happens next is most definitely not for the faint-hearted. After the camera get sucked into the water and resurfaces, we see how Maria is holding onto a tree for dear life when she suddenly sees her oldest son Lucas caught in the brutal flow of the water. What follows are nerve-wrecking scenes in which Maria and Lucas are desperately trying to reach each other while the Tsunami hits again. Lucas gets sucked into the water, where he is brutally hit by numerous objects, branches, … When he resurfaces, all scarred-up, he sees his mother floating by, seemingly dead. Fortunately, she wakes up and he rushes to her arms. Although these entire scenes only take up a few minutes, it seems as though it lasted for hours before they were reunited again.
Now that the sea has calmed down and the water is flowing more calmly, Maria and Lucas try to swim back inland, where they finally reach some less-deep water, allowing them to continue on foot. As they walk inland, we see the devastation that was caused both to the land itself and to our main characters. When Maria was hit by the water, she got badly hurt by some branches, ripping of some big part of her skin (trust me, it’s not very easy to look at). When they suddenly hear a kid crying in the distance, they are faced with a tough decision: get themselves to safety, in case another wave hits the land, or find the kid and rescue him. Maria manages to persuade her son, who just wants to get his mum to safety, by telling him: “even if it’s the last thing we do..”
The three of them manage to climb a tree, waiting to be rescued while soft and saddening music plays as the camera floats through the landscape, covered in destruction. After they finally get rescued by Thai natives, they are taken care for and brought to a hospital, filled with people who are badly injured. As his mum’s condition is getting worse, Lucas tries to help some people at the hospital, who are desperately trying to find their family members. Unfortunately, when he returns to his mother’s bed, she is no longer there. He is send to a tent with all the other kids who have no parents with them, forced to wait in terrible agony to find out if his mum is still alive or not.
We are now halfway through the movie when the movie cuts to a man, wandering in the ruins of Khao Lak and as the camera turns to his front, we learn that Henry survived the Tsunami as well. He screams out for his wife and son as he is desperate to find them and reunite them with his other sons, who made it too (which you already know if you’ve watched the trailer). Henry refuses to give up on his search, even when trucks arrive to bring everyone up to the mountains, where they’ll be much safer. He is forced to send his two scared little boys away to safety, while he searches through every hospital and looks at every dead body he comes across. It’s absolutely horrifying to watch how thousands of people are trying to find out what happened to their family members, refusing to give up.
One storyline of a family going on a holiday is now split into 4 separate but equally heartbreaking stories. Lucas is on his own at the hospital, unaware of what happened to his mother, while his father continues his search for them both. The youngest boys are put into a bus with random other kids, not knowing where they are being taken to and last but not least we have Maria, who’s condition is getting critical and life-threatening.
I’m not going to tell you how it ends but I can promise you, it will move you to tears and you won’t be able to forget about this movie for days.
The acting is perfect, the music and cinematography are stunning and the story isn’t being dragged out. The only shame is that the story is told from the perspective of a white European family, not from a local one. The story is based on true events, although the original family is Spanish and not British. It is surely a missed opportunity to either tell the story from a local’s perspective or to hire Spanish actors instead, but I do still think it’s an excellent movie.
Let’s start with the cast. Both Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor give one of their best performances ever as they are both desperate to hold onto their families and are constantly being put through hell. They both act in such natural and heart-rending ways that you simply cannot stay unmoved. Now, I usually tend to find child actors rather annoying in movies as their acting is sometimes really nowhere near great but goddamn, these three kids are cast perfectly! Every emotion on their little faces, every word they say seems so real, it will move you to your very core.
Another reason why I think this is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, is the way the story is being told. Unlike many other movies, this one doesn’t take long before it gets kicked into gear. There’s no extended introduction to the characters, no unnecessary pieces of information on who they are. After only 13 minutes the movie gets kicked into gear, grabbing you by the throat and never releasing any of its tension. I actually had chills right from the very beginning up until the end of the movie, which has never happened before. There’s actually not one single boring or redundant scene in the entire movie. It’s pretty hard to explain but you’ll feel like you’ve watched a movie for weeks and at the same time it’ll seem like it went by in a few minutes.
On top of that, this movie was directed by a Spanish director (Juan Antonio Bayona) who is obviously less influenced by typical Hollywood disaster movies. The movie doesn’t just focuses on the disaster or unnecessary subtexts and storylines but it taps into human emotions and focuses on courage and the human spirit. Also, it shot in such a beautiful way! The way Bayona plays with light is simply stunning and he’s not afraid to sometimes use some unusual colors, like for instance at the beginning when the family is playing at the beach.
Last but not least, the score that accompanies this movie is spectacular. Every song that’s featured is perfect in every way. On top of that, Bayona’s not afraid to often to let the audience sit in silence or only guide them with a very soft song that’s only there to intensify the sadness you’ll feel when watching this movies at times when words would not suffice. At times, he’ll let go of the music and only focus on real sounds. For example, when Maria and Lucas are swept away by the water, he cuts down all music and lets us hear what they were hearing under water.
It’s one of the most haunting stories you’ll ever witness!