Film review: The Impossible

Director: Juan Antonio Bayona
Cast: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast, Marta Etura
Rating: (M)
4 stars (out of 5)

An epic and emotional dramatisation of a family's true account of survival against the odds in the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. A black wall of water engulfs a young family lazing poolside on Boxing Day and life is turned upside-down.

Henry and Maria Bennett (played by Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts) are holidaying in Khao Lak, Thailand, with their three sons when the unimaginable happens. The tsunami was one of the deadliest natural disasters in history, killing up to 280,000 people and devastating Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.

Maria and her eldest son, Lucas (played by excellent young debutante Tom Holland) are separated from the rest of the family and survive the onslaught by scaling a tree.

A stoic Maria is rescued and hospitalised and urges Lucas to try to help others find lost relatives.

The film is a tour de force for Watts, who picked up Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for best actress for her role.

Meanwhile, a panic-stricken Henry gets the younger two brothers, Thomas and Simon (Samuel Joslin and Oaklee Pendergast), to safety before searching shelters and hospitals for Maria and Lucas. The tension is tangible as a series of unfortunate events and close misses keep the family separated, until the final, emotional, denouement.

Best thing: The realistic effects. Director Bayona used real water rather than computer-generated imagery to create the tsunami scenes and the result is impressive.

Worst thing: Indeed, it is so realistic, the two-hour rollercoaster ride can leave the legs a bit wobbly.

See it with: Someone who doesn't get seasick.

By Nigel Benson.