Can’t stop thinking about ‘The Impossible’

Published 1:00 pm Saturday, January 12, 2013

by Lauren Bradshaw

You know you have seen a fantastic movie when you can’t stop thinking about it hours after you leave the theater.

This is how I feel even days after experiencing J.A. Bayona’s (“The Orphanage”) masterpiece, “The Impossible.” I have seen many movies this year, but this one has taken the lead as my favorite.

The Impossible is the true, harrowing account of a family, Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan McGregor), and their three sons, who were on vacation in Thailand when they were swept-up and separated by one of the most horrific natural disasters in history, the 2004 Indonesian tsunami.

The family’s will to survive and find each other amongst the tsunami’s horrific destruction creates an extremely gut-wrenching tale, one that has more heart and depth than any film yet this year. It is amazing that most of the drama in the film did not have to be escalated to make the story more entertaining, the truth is entertaining enough.

The ensemble cast was magnificent, with Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor at the helm and Tom Holland (the couple’s oldest son Lucas) showing he is also a force to be reckoned with; it is remarkable that this is his first movie. While McGregor was fantastic, the standout performance was Watts, who gave the performance of her career.

I related to her more than any character I have seen on film in a long time; I felt pain every time she felt pain, I felt anxious when she was anxious.

Her raw steadfast courage demonstrated the lengths a mother will go to save her child. Watts’ spectacular performance would not have been possible, however, without the support of Holland. The amount of emotion in every glance, every utterance of dialogue in the unbreakable connection between mother and son was extremely moving.

Not only is the film extremely well written and cast, but the cinematography and sound mixing were also incredible. This is the type of movie that you should certainly see in the theater. The way Bayona films each scene, both with the claustrophobic visuals and incredibly realistic sound editing, makes the audience feel it is experiencing the tsunami, too.

I have not felt so immersed in a film since Titanic. In many scenes, I was gasping for breath while Watts was trapped underwater, or covering my eyes for fear I was going to be hit by the debris rushing by the actors. My stress level hasn’t been that high in a movie in a long time.

While sitting in the theater watching the film, I kept asking myself, “How did they film these scenes?? Where was the set?? What is CGI and what is real?” This film was not a tent-pole summer blockbuster with a Titanic-sized budget.

How in the world did they film these scenes? I cannot wait for the DVD to be released so I can hopefully get some insight into how mastermind director J.A. Bayona made everything seem so realistic.

One of the best parts of Bayona’s film was his steady focus on humanity; he showed compassion can still exist even when times are tough. In a society where we are constantly shown how heartless people can be, Bayona made it a point to focus on moments of kindness.

From Maria and Lucas risking their lives to save a helpless toddler, to the many Thai people who jumped in to help the survivors even after losing everything themselves, The Impossible became more a story about a community coming together than destruction.

I cannot believe this film has flown so under the radar this season. In fact, most of the only praise I have heard about The Impossible was regarding Watts’ performance, and rightfully so. My only hope is that if the film does not get the turnout it deserves in theaters, many people will find it when it comes to DVD.

While over the years I have seen many pictures and videos of the tsunami’s destruction, it wasn’t until I saw this film that I began to understand the magnitude of its devastation. This was not an attempt for Hollywood to exploit the disaster, which claimed over 230,000 lives, but was instead an opportunity to immerse the audience in a situation that we will never be able to fully comprehend, an event I will be thinking about for a long time to come.

The Impossible is playing at the AMC Hampton Town Centre 24.

LAUREN BRADSHAW grew up in Courtland, graduated from Southampton Academy and doubled-majored in foreign affairs and history at the University of Virginia. She lives in the Washington, D.C., and can be reached at