The Impossible, a drama natural-disaster film, directed by Juan Antonio Bayona to a script by Sergio G. Sánchez, walks a fine line between authenticity and a drenched melodrama. It stars Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, and, in his cinematic debut, Tom Holland. The plot wisely focuses on the true story of a single family's experience during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, a disaster that left over 230,000 people in fourteen countries dead.
Though the film is a Spanish production, it is English-speaking and it purposely leaves the nationalities of its main characters unnamed in an attempt to give the disaster a more international flair. This is both unnecessary and does not work as the main characters tend to speak with a British accent thus leaving us to assume they are British, but it's a fault one can easily forgive.
The first two thirds of the movie are both terrifying and fantastic. Bayona and his team of special effects are able to recreate the feel of a tsunami so real that one finds himself holding to his chair. Furthermore, Bayone, for the most part, keeps the camera at eye level of the main characters so we get to experience the disaster at ground level.
Watts, McGregor and Holland give excellent performances, that is until the later part of the film, where the drama gets over the top with a combination of over-dramatic music, sound effects and constant sobbing. This fault alone was a close call to degrade the film to three star rating, but when viewed as a whole, The Impossible does stand out as an impressive achievement in both cinematic effects and, more importantly, being able to tell a simple human story in such an engaging manner.