In a surprising turn of events, the 2012 disaster drama The Impossible has climbed its way to the eighth spot on the Netflix US top ten films list, bringing to the forefront a gripping tale of a real natural disaster that occurred over two decades ago.
Directed by J.A. Bayona and written by Sergio G. Sánchez, the film features Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor portraying the central characters and a young Tom Holland in a breakthrough performance.
The Impossible tells the harrowing true story of a family’s struggle for survival in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan McGregor), and their three sons set out on a dream vacation to Thailand, only to find themselves caught in the midst of one of the most catastrophic natural disasters in history. Separated by the relentless force of the waves, the family members embark on individual journeys fraught with peril and heart-wrenching uncertainty, determined to reunite against all odds.
Upon its initial release, The Impossible received widespread acclaim for its raw and emotionally charged portrayal of the devastating events. Critics lauded the film for its compelling storytelling, powerful performances, and the gut-wrenching realism it brought to the screen.
Some raised concerns about centring a white family in the story of a POC community that was devastated by the tsunami. One British survivor, Simon Jenkins, wrote to The Guardian, speaking of how such reactions were “frustrating” to read about, “Had this film been purely about the tale of a western middle class family’s ‘ruined’ holiday then I would have agreed.”
“For me, it was the exact opposite. Rather than concentrating on the ‘privileged white visitors’, the film portrayed the profound sense of community and unity that I experienced in Thailand, with this family at the centre of it.” Jenkins continued, “Both for my (then) 16-year-old self and the Belón family, it was the Thai people who waded through the settled water after the first wave had struck to help individuals and families… The Thai people had just lost everything – homes, businesses, families – yet their instinct was to help the tourists.”
Watts, in particular, earned Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for her portrayal of Maria, a resilient and determined mother who found herself amid unimaginable chaos. The young Holland also emerged as a revelation in the film. At the age of 16, Holland delivered a performance lauded as beyond his years. Little did viewers know then that this talented teenager would go on to become a household name, eventually donning the iconic red and blue suit as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Spider-Man.
You can watch The Impossible on Netflix and catch the trailer here: