The Impossible

1 h 48 min2013X-Ray13+
The story of a tourist family in Tailand caught in the destruction of chaotic aftermath of the 2004 Ocean tsunami.
Juan Antonio Bayona
Naomi WattsEwan McGregorTom Holland
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Supporting actors
Géraldine ChaplinOaklee Pendergast
Belén AtienzaÁlvaro Augustin
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4.7 out of 5 stars

10444 global ratings

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Top reviews from the United States

LimuthwarriReviewed in the United States on January 16, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
the original harrowing Tsunami experience happened to a beautiful and impressive Spanish family
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Yes, the original harrowing Tsunami experience happened to a beautiful and impressive Spanish family. You can read all about them if you look them up, they consulted closely with the actors and movie makers. Some reviewers have given low ratings because the movie was not done with Spanish actors but, I feel they picked the right couple, the right kids, to give the story the gravitas it deserved. Besides, if I had an important story of survival taking place during an event that impacted on millions of people, I would want Hollywood to tell it so that all of the world could share in celebrating the strength of our human spirit. No one else does this as well as Hollywood and that is just a fact of life. As to the acting, Naomi is physically vulnerable while displaying emotional maturity as the injured mother and doctor. Ewan as usual is the good guy with a plan, if somewhat slightly perplexed by events. With these two, we know there is triumph waiting at the end of the ordeal. They have given us (who essentially have to look in from the outside whilst still being deeply involved) a sense of security that all will be well with this family in the end. The kids are stunning in their skill, most especially the elder son who somehow holds the family together.

It is true that locals are more of a backdrop than a central part of the story. But I don't see this as a shortcoming. The fact is that this is the story of a family who were in Thailand as tourists. Personally I don't think there would have been space for other storylines with strong local leads, and that would have been tangential to the original story as told by the mother, the tourist that it happened to. For me, it is enough that we are shown locals being extremely kind and brave while supporting tourists with an immense shortage of resources. It is remarkable that amidst thousands of injured, lost and stranded; we see villagers, nurses and doctors somehow having the humanity to make personal connections with individual sufferers. They go to great lengths to take care of individual needs of this family in the face of overwhelming demands. That the Spanish family thoughtfully remembered the care of strangers, and recounted those detail, is a credit to their own humanity. That the moviemakers demonstrated care of locals at the individual level, is indicative of their skill in capturing the small moments that add meaning to our human experience.

This movie is highly recommended as an example of the strength of the human spirit against the greatest and most unavoidable of odds. In my opinion, it is safe to watch with teenagers, even in school situations.
98 people found this helpful
johnfReviewed in the United States on June 10, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Incredibly intense film, a must see.
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I decided to watch “The Impossible” largely to see Naomi Watts’ performance, for which she was nominated as Best Actress by the Motion Picture Academy, Screen Actors’ Guild, Golden Globes and numerous critics groups. I realized that with the subject matter being the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia this would be a serious film. Still, I wasn’t quite ready for a film of such intensity and one that drew me in to a state of absolute and total involvement. It’s rare to find a film with this much power and for me it was quite an experience.

Not only is the entire cast excellent but the director made the right choices throughout. Most directors would have gone for spectacle, focusing on the massive devastation caused by the waves using lots of CGI to create a monumental scene of destruction. This would usually take place after a great deal of setting up numerous characters in a superficial way and the depiction of the wave would be the real reason to see the film.. In other words, a typical disaster movie with a lot of uninvolving crowd scenes.. Instead, director J.A. Bayona focuses on a single family consisting of the parents and three boys and stays almost entirely with them throughout.

The family is introduced on the plane and at the resort without a great deal of fuss. They have a few issues but fortunately they are not presented as wildly dysfunctional or involved in family drama. They’re just a family. The film is not about a dysfunctional family finding each other’s value in a crisis but rather about simple survival.

After the scene is set the tsunami occurs. The event unfolds suddenly, violently and so realistically that you might think you are seeing the real thing. (I’ve seen a long documentary using many videos taken during the event by those involved in it and the film captures much of what it looked like). The family gets split up and for a long spell it’s mostly the mother, Maria (Naomi Watts) and oldest son Lucas (Tom Holland) who looks about twelve.

I can’t say enough good things about both of them. This must have been a very difficult thing to film, and acting in such circumstances, with multiple takes and all, must have been an ordeal for the actors. Not only are they good, they’re totally convincing in their absolute alarm and total concern for each other. With camera closeups, underwater photography and incredibly good sound, you feel you are really there and not just watching a movie. Amid the motion and chaos there are tender moments as well as harrowing ones and since it is based on a true story there’s no sure sense of who will or will not survive. Naomi Watts deserved her many nominations for simply being able to survive the physical circumstances of playing her role but she also deserved it for doing it so realistically and well.

Here I must note what an actor Tom Holland is. He’s now very popular as the new Spiderman and though I’ve seen the Marvel Avengers films, much of his screen time is CGI bouncing about and uttering quips. I wondered if there was actually anything to him. He is absolutely amazing in this film, a real find. He has an unexpected depth of feeling and can communicate a great deal with a single look. Just watch his face as he sees his mother, his usual caretaker, seriously injured, half naked and dazed in the water. It the true face of panic at a world turned upside down. And he’s this good throughout the entire film. Usually a kid like this will be in the film to elicit audience sympathy for a few harrowing moments. But here, he becomes the film’s central character for a considerable time. It seems almost mad for a director to let a kid carry this much of a serious film but Holland manages to pull it off. I hope the superstardom in Marvel films doesn’t ruin him somehow.

That is almost the entire first half of the film. After that, the film centers on the father, Henry (Ewan McGregor) trying to find his family. This is also very well done as he wanders from one place to another. It’s not quite as powerful as the first part, but the first part is like practically nothing else I’ve ever seen where the second half feels more like a movie. The secondary actors have very small roles with the notable exception of a gentle, almost wistful, cameo with one of the boys by Geraldine Chaplin. The director stays focused on the family members but has a nice technique of having the camera suddenly rise up from a close scene to pan the larger scene of chaos in which they are but a small part.

This is all presented in a matter of fact way. Injuries and blood look very real and can induce squeamishness, but of course this is not a gore fest, and the realistic injuries only drive home the great suffering caused by the tsunami and the serious predicament of the characters. Some people have said the score gets a little too loud or manipulative at times and at times I did notice it but overall it’s effective and nothing to really quibble about in a film this good.

There has also been some complaining about the family being English rather than Thai or Spanish (the actual family is from Spain and the mother, Maria Belon, helped with the screenplay). This is not the case of a 1930s film where white Americans play Asian or other ethnic roles. Though basically an independent film, it was very expensive to realistically create the wave and a whole region in a state of destruction. Most indie films can be made for under ten million dollars. The budget for this film was 45 million, a gigantic amount for a non-big studio film by a Spanish director. To get the financing needed you have to have bankable internationally-known actors and there simply aren’t any Spanish or Thai actors with a big enough international following. This is not a case of simply using English or American actors out of habit or unconcern for authenticity.

The film was shot mostly in Thailand and in fact parts were shot in the actual location of Phang Nga and the rebuilt Orchid Beach Hotel where the family stayed and at the actual hospital shown in the film. Some of the survivors shown in the film, both Thai and European, were people who had actually survived the tsunami. Director Bayona went to great lengths to make the film as real as possible.

The film did extraordinarily well. Playing a more or less indie-circuit in the U.S. it grossed 19 million, a decent amount at that level. But internationally it did much better, grossing 180 million (including U.S.). I do think it could have had a better title. “The Impossible” sounds like it could be about practically anything and doesn’t convey any image to the public. If I saw the title in the paper or online I might have thought it was about magic or something like that.
54 people found this helpful
Christina ReynoldsReviewed in the United States on September 12, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
All of the complainers: This movie is ACCURATE
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Thank you for reading in advance

The Impossible (Spanish: Lo Imposible) is a 2012 English-language Spanish disaster drama film directed by J. A. Bayona and written by Sergio G. Sánchez. It is based on the experience of María Belón and her family in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. It features INternational cast Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and Tom Holland.

A natural disaster Movie it sometimes only as good as its set design and at the risk of being aloof I must say: ‘’The Impossible’ simply blows theirs out of the water. Every moment is immersive and feels dangerously interactive, and the environment always matches the moods and tones of the various characters that they are trying to portray. The surroundings are as confusing as one can expect and more chaotic than some people can imagine; This accurate representation of Destruction and imminent death will follow you long after this film's conclusion.

It goes without saying that the emotional pull this film depends on to keep its audience's attention is inevitable and unwavering. The acting is nothing short of incredible - it has the kind of force that grabs a hold and does not let go. There are so many moments where the audience is as unsure about certain situations in the same way the characters are, and that is both suspenseful and an unexpected source of empathy. I want to add that despite this conclusion being presented as one of the most optimistic and happy endings that one can expect, This film gives due respect to those that were not as fortunate during and after this event. We are constantly reminded that for every life that was saved in the rescue efforts there were individuals that died, individuals that sustained life-threatening injuries, and families that were left to mourn their loved ones.

All efforts were made in filming to be as accurate as possible in telling María Belón’s story; Belón even personally chose Naomi Watts to play as her in the film, And she worked closely with this film’s screenwriter to make sure all the important details remained intact. Belón now works diligently as an advocate For those still recovering from the effects of this and other tsunamis; She has said of her experience:
“I embrace life. My whole life is extra time. There is no difference between me—a Spanish woman named María who is alive—and thousands of moms who are under the sea. I do not deserve to be alive, but life is not fair. I feel pain and compassion for so many others who didn't come back up or lost the ones they love. My whole story is on my body. And it is wonderful because it means I am alive.”

Unbelievable and absolutely remarkable: I would recommend!
15 people found this helpful
Angelika HagedonReviewed in the United States on March 18, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Fantastic movie!
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The item itself came in great condition and worked just fine.
The movie is fantastic! The cast and crew did an amazing job bringing this real experience to the big screen. It didn't seem like there was a lot of CGI used during filming, and I know that Naomi Watts and Tom Holland (who I think played their parts perfectly) were actually working in the water with obstacles to work around.
The child actors were also well chosen and played their parts well. All that being said, this isn't for the feint of heart. It is an emotionally heavy movie, and you will need a box of tissues. It is a natural disaster film based on a true story, and therefore didn't hold back on the horrors of the event a whole lot. This means there are disturbing and bloody images, as well as brief nudity due to people's clothes being torn/ruined or during some hospital scenes. These are not meant as a means of objectification or lustful interest as much as just adding an extra layer of realism.
7 people found this helpful
AmeliaReviewed in the United States on May 18, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
I watch it every year
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This is one of the few movies that I own and that I watch at least once a year. And every time I know to have tissues nearby. I have no idea how they could have recreated the horror and devastation so realistically. One can't help wondering if they'd filmed it while it happened. It's just incredible. But the best part of this movie is the human element. You root for the family and cheer the Thai people who rose so admirably to the occasion to deal with their own loss and devastation. As a mother I feel kinship with Maria, and Naomi Watts just wrung the tears out of me. Another memorable part of this movie, for me, is Tom Holland. I remember the first time I watched this a few years ago how impressed I was how beautifully the boy brought emotion to every scene he was in. I knew then he was going places. Bring tissues. Be warned.
27 people found this helpful
Avg JoeReviewed in the United States on November 8, 2020
2.0 out of 5 stars
The truth isn't always interesting
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Having seen this film, I do not doubt that it wasn't an accurate account. Otherwise it might have been worthy of a movie.... this wasn't. This is a tale of luck and bad decisions.
So the tsunami visuals will be interesting at least?
The wave's approach is shielded by trees so you don't see it hit. Nor do you really see the big wave hit because a smaller one does first. So the disaster is already underway and mostly hidden by debris when the big one hits.
As Epic tsunami's go.... it pretty much wasn't.
What I was waiting for was the back wash. The point when the wave travels inland and then sucks debris and people back out to see - one of the most horrible aspects for survivors that managed to find something to float on. One minute you realize you are alive and will likely be OK. Then next the backwash drives you miles out to sea.
This wave didn't have a back wash.... somehow. So that was one of several very good strokes of luck.

So if you want to see a movie about dumb luck.
Go for it.
If you want to see a movie about great personal sacrifices, fast thinking in the face of adversity, a great and awe inspiring horror of the wave (which it historically was).... not so much for the others, but at least you get to see a line of palm trees instead of the incomming wave.
Good stuff.
The One good thing (two stars, not one). This was a historical account and they did not change the events just to make it interesting.
Next time someone wants to exploit a disaster, I recommend just doing fiction and don't claim true events. True events are rarely cinematic and you either wind up lying (Secretariat) or making something bland (this).
4 people found this helpful
MsairsReviewed in the United States on March 25, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Beautiful film
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Its a beautiful, powerful story about family and luck. SPOILER ALERT --> I cried at every scene that they found each other because if you had a family you would understand that relief and joy of being reunited with your loved ones after a cataclysmic event. And you yourself would want to be counted as one of the lucky ones and have your family come out of such an event whole and intact, without loss. I felt sorry for those who were the unlucky ones. And they went that over a little in the end with all those crying people discovering their loved one was deceased. The movie didn't delve too much on them, nor did the movie touch much about the effect on the Thai natives. And I did sense the westernization of that country with foreigners enjoying the things that to them would be cheap, but unaffordable to the Thai natives. I was a little bothered by that because it bordered on exploitation of the virgin lands. Its like some rich westerner or Chinese person thought to profit from the seeming paradise of untouched wilderness and beaches. It would be expensive for regular people in third world countries to vacation in Europe and enjoy the lifestyle of German natives, that sort of thing. And Europeans and the Chinese ruined and polluted their lands, and are now westerners are trying to reverse its effects, which is slightly redeeming. Anyway, like I said earlier the movie wasn't about that, it was about family. The scenery and effects were beautiful, plot moved smoothly, and the acting was superb. Im a fan of McGregor and I thought his chemistry with Kidman was warm. You can feel their chemistry. That kid from the new Spiderman is in this movie, except he's younger because this is an older movie. But boy that kid can act like a pro with serious acting chops! He's so natural! His siblings were great too. Wow, they did a great job. You can feel the emotions, believe them and relate to them. This is an excellent movie, so watch it. :D
One person found this helpful
GiftbearerReviewed in the United States on March 14, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Inspiring Story of Love and Perseverence
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This was a deeply moving story and even more amazing is that it was true! This family of 5 survived a Tsunami that killed many people and found each other again against the odds.

Everything about it was beautiful; the filming, the scenery, and the commitment this family had to each other which allowed them to survive.

It was well acted and for the most part believable. The only aspects that weren't were that nobody in charge of the efforts to rescue people had a phone to call for outside help and evacuation. You'd think that a luxury motel would have an emergency protocol and communication set up in case something like this happened other than merely taking people to the mountains.

Also, it's a little hard to believe that a parent would leave two young children with strangers in a foreign country and then go look for his wife and other son by himself rather than calling home and asking a rescue team to come out. Also not very believable is that a mother would send her son who couldn't have been more than 13 himself to go help people and risk being separated from him the way she did. Anything could have happened to him; human trafficking, forced child labor, he could have been kidnapped, or killed by people looking to take advantage of the young and vulnerable in this crisis. These parents appeared otherwise responsible and well-educated people, so it seemed a bit out of character.

Other than those two flaws this film was very inspiring! It had a happy ending which left one feeling good and hopeful.
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