Put a staggering accomplishment called The Impossible, from Spanish director J. A. Bayona, at the top of the season’s must-see list. This intense nerve-shredder about a vacationing family separated in the violent and unexpected Indian Ocean tsunami that struck the southeast coast of Asia on Dec. 26, 2004, is the most wrenching disaster movie in decades. It’s also true, brilliantly acted by a gifted and dedicated cast and one of the best films about physical and emotional survival ever made. I first saw it at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, and I still haven’t recovered. The outline is deceptively simple: an everyday family (Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts and their three children) flies to Thailand to spend Christmas vacation in a comfortable resort villa with an ocean view in Khao Lak. They check in, unpack, share a Christmas dinner, open presents and slip into their bathing suits to go snorkeling in
As the distressed British-born businessman father working for a firm in Japan, broken and bloody, clinging to two younger sons and praying that the rest of his family is still alive, Ewan McGregor has never been more appealing or more vulnerable. As his noble, heroic doctor wife instinctively trying to help others despite her own injuries, Naomi Watts gets a punishing workout. Climbing trees with two displaced children in her arms, swimming to safety through dead fish and rotting cadavers while her oldest son stays by her side on their agonizing journey through the ruins to a makeshift hospital, Ms. Watts seems almost spiritually committed to her role. The children are wonderful, especially a compelling young actor named Tom Holland, who makes an impressive debut as the brave, heartbreaking boy forced to shoulder responsibilities beyond his age and comprehension as he tries to save his mother’s life in the absence of a father. The entire cast achieves monumental heights of honesty and integrity in an unforgettable film that combines epic spectacle with the intimacy of loving relationships in a celebration of the invincible human spirit.
Running Time 107 minutes
Written by Sergio G. Sánchez
Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona
Starring Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and Tom Holland