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by Leonard Maltin
December 21, 2012 12:57 AM
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Naomi Watts-Tom Holland-325
Photo by Jose Haro - © Summit Ent., LLC.

Unlike some films that have become critics’ darlings, The Impossible has no pretensions. It isn’t edgy and I don’t think it has a hidden subtext. It’s just a beautifully told, enormously moving story of a family’s experiences during and after the 2004 tsunami that hit a holiday resort in Thailand. Shorn of the contrivances we associate with Hollywood disaster movies, The Impossible recreates an unthinkable event and its aftermath with breathtaking—and heartbreaking—credibility.

Director J.A. Bayona and screenwriter Sergio Sanchez capture both the big picture and the small moments that transform a catastrophe into a life-changing experience for everyone involved.

Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor play the parents of three boys who arrive at the beautiful resort for a Christmas vacation. Their lives are upended on December 26 when the ocean turns into a raging monster. Once the waters recede, Watts and her eldest son (played by the remarkable Tom Holland, making his film debut) reconnect, but have no idea where they are, where to go, or how to find the rest of their family. They may all be dead.

Ewan McGregor-The Impossible-325
Photo by Jose Haro - © Summit Ent., LLC.

I’m reluctant to reveal much more. The film is based on the experiences of a Spanish family who allowed the filmmakers to tell their story. Bayona and Sanchez doggedly avoid sentimentality, allowing us to bring our own emotional reaction to the events onscreen. The visual effects and production design make every scene seem genuine. Watts, McGregor, and the three boys are all superb.

Anyone who has lived through a real-life disaster, large or small, knows that it brings out the best in humanity. Ordinary people become heroic and brave people become inspiring. The Impossible captures all of that. It’s a tough movie, but also one of the best I’ve seen all year.

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  • M. Ryan | March 30, 2013 8:53 PMReply

    In Western Connecticut, we wanted very much to see this movie, but while we have 3 movie houses, plus a multiplex, we haven't been able to accomplish this. The multiplex had one showing weeks ago, for a few days, at 5.20 pm when most people were working. That was it. Doesn't that seem strange? Why?

  • Jarno | January 5, 2013 9:12 PMReply

    This movie had some of the best performances by child actors I've seen. Tom Holland, who acted Lucas, deserves some serious accolades for that performance. Naomi Watts put in her bid for the Oscar too, for sure.

  • pablo | December 28, 2012 8:02 PMReply

    Agree! Naomi deserves the Oscar, and Bayona a nomination for made the impossible: the first catastrophe master piece film.

  • Rod | December 23, 2012 10:30 PMReply

    I agree I loved The Impossible,is really explicit,difficult to watch sometimes but in other hand so sincere,so sad, so beautiful.
    I really hope finally Naomi Watts wins the Best Actress category this year,her performace is really strong, excellent. Naomi Watts is the most underated actress in the movie industry but also she is the most talented.Thanks Naomi Watts you really touch my heart with this performace.

  • Jeffrey | December 22, 2012 1:13 AMReply

    Its difficult to watch, but that's because its incredibly realistic.

  • Genadijus | December 21, 2012 1:30 AMReply

    I would give the statue to N. Watts, hands down... what a strong and breath-taking performances.

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