The Impossible ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

The Impossible is able to convey an incredibly realistic depiction of what being caught in a tsunami must be like - including a horrifyingly accurate glimpse at what it means to be a human body (composed of flesh and bone) in the midst of its fury. It is able to convey the human toll of such a catastrophic event - both emotional and physical - and the three leads do an incredible job of relating that toll to the film's audience. It's impossible to not give Tom Holland, who plays the elder son Lucas, as equal a weight and gravity in this film as the two adult leads.

But the film fails at doing what it sets out to do.

The film is not able to convey a true sense of separation on a large scale. Even though viewers see footage of (and hear of) sprawling hospitals - filled with thousands of white people, no doubt - which capture the widespread devastation, the narrative never really expresses the true loss of a family separated by so great an obstacle. One scene manages to do this incredibly well - Ewan McGregor's character calling a relative to explain the situation, while simultaneously realizing the overwhelming powerlessness of being truly alone in such turmoil - but that's the only scene that left me with anything even close to that feeling.

Once the characters leave the desolate wastelands of the post-tsunami fields, we as viewers begin to lose any real sense of the vastness of this disaster. We get a small bottle-episode-within-a-movie where Lucas roams the hospital wards helping others find their loved ones, but this vignette left me with the impression that the writers were trying to convey the feelings of loss and division which they couldn't capture through the primary characters.

We see these characters lose each other multiple times, and that's the whole point of the film really - experiencing the helplessness and chaos of losing those you love to an "act of god" and not knowing how to get back to them - but it's in the steadfast determination, braveness and overcoming of obstacles that we expect to see a resolution. Instead, it's largely pure chance - not determination or hope - that reunites the characters in the end.