‘The Impossible’ (2012) Review: Harrowing, Moving Family Drama

It’s 2004 and Maria and Henry Bennett (Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor) are enjoying an idyllic  Christmas holiday with their three young sons at an Oceanside resort in Thailand. The day is as beautiful as the brochure promised until, without warning, a Tsunami hits like something out of an Irwin Allen movie. Only this isn’t a movie. The Tsunami really happened, over 230,000 people died, and “The Impossible” is based on the true story of this family.


Director J.A. Bayone’s does a superb job of telling a personal story against an epic backdrop while avoiding  the expected disaster movie tropes. Within 15 minutes this family is in the middle of a watery hell they probably shouldn’t have survived, but the tidal wave is just the beginning. Separated, injured, and completely thrown off balance in a foreign country not prepared for a natural disaster on this scale, the Bennetts can’t even speak the language as they try to find medical care and one another.

Watts, who was nominated for an Oscar, is superb, as is McGregor. But the best performance comes from Tom Holland, who plays the oldest son, 12 year-old Lucas. Watching an everyday spoiled kid rise to the occasion is the true heart of this story.  

Well scripted, well acted, believable, moving, and compelling. The story might be a little intense for younger kids, and there is some non-sexual nudity, but “The Impossible” is a standout family drama well worth your time.