Tom Holland does a remarkable job

Although it’s not the first to deal with the 2004 Tsunami and it certainly won’t be the last, The Impossible is the first huge scale film to attempt to bring it to Hollywood. As a result, some people will find the film distasteful and would probably avoid it. If they do however they’ll be missing out on what is a remarkable true-life tale of a family whom on vacation managed to survive and come back together against all the odds.

Released: 2012

Runtime: 1hr 54 mins

The Premise

On Boxing Day 2004 the deadly Tsunami that claimed so many struck. On Ko Phi Phi Island a family are washed apart and must struggle to survive and find each other again.

The Disasters Faced

The Tsunami itself, infections and the human disposition.

The Execution

For a Hollywood movie that’s centred entirely on a European family, the film doesn’t leave much to the imagination on the scale of the disaster. The Tsunami scene happens very early on and whilst the effects and the way how the disaster is played out is shocking and memorising. It lasts for around ten minutes and is given a Hollywood licence. Once the money shots are done however things return back to more humanist venture. Naomi Watts and one son are in one place, Ewan McGregor another and the two youngest sons elsewhere. The rest of the film focuses on them looking for each other and trying to never give up hope. It’s a very insular story in that although in pan outs to see the scope of the disaster, the story itself keeps specifically with these five although the younger sons get very little screen time. There are two distinct camps of disaster movie story thought and whilst I was utterly onboard with the family dynamic here, if another movie is done of the tsunami, I’d like to see how a collection of stories interwoven much like the TV film Tsunami The Aftermath was done. That way, we could see it through various eyes. I can’t complain though, what is here works perfectly and is entrancing as it is harrowing, lucky and heroic.

Naomi Watts shows not just physical pain, but the mental pain of having her children swept away

The Effects

The Tsunami itself is technically impressive especially the section where Watts is being dragged across the Island. The sets and general carnage after is also very real – complete with lots of mass crowd scenes showing the disarray of the people left behind.

Why It’s Worth Watching

Firstly, the acting is of a very high standard. Naomi Watt’s pain is palpable throughout the movie and McGregor’s scenes as he rings home are heart-wrenching. Also, a star is eldest child Tom Holland whom matching everyone else toe for toe and although he’s not on-screen much Samuel Joslin as young Thomas is utterly charming. The story has many beats to it and is cleverly told to keep you wondering how everyone will find each other. It certainly doesn’t feel like a two-hour film.

Ewan McGregor drags his sons to safety but he can’t outrun the tsunami

Random Trivia

The Belon family on which this film is based on were present on set for the shoot and gave insight and tips as to how they acted during the ordeal.


Harrowing but narrow insight into the Tsunami. I think this film is captivating from start to finish. I can appreciate however that many may wonder why it was ever made at all. That does not take away from the amazing performances and sincerity that the film generally exudes. It treads a fine line and does so perfectly.

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