The trailer for The Impossible reduced me to tears each and every time I saw it, so I was very much braced for impact when it came to seeing the film itself. And it is heart-rending stuff - the suffering of this one family standing in for all the pain and sorrow suffered by so many people during and after the tsunami. And since this is a true story of triumph over the odds, there is something positive to be taken from their suffering. Despite the severe and long-lasting injuries suffered by Naomi Watts' character and the trauma and distress the children and her husband endure while not knowing if their family are alive or dead, at least this family survived while so many did not.
In focusing on this one family, it could be argued that the film-makers have ignored the devastation to all the other people whose lives, homes and possessions were destroyed. But unless a film about a natural disaster has some kind of focus, it would fail to make an impact: one person's death is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic. It seemed to me that the epic scale of the destruction was never ignored - the impact of the hospital scenes alone make it clear that the country has been overwhelmed by the disaster and that the Thai people are making extraordinary efforts in terrible circumstances to help the injured, the lost and the dying, whether those people are Thai or tourists. It's extremely affecting to see villagers helping Naomi Watts and her son who would have died without their intervention.
Naomi Watts is very good in her role - and has been duly Oscar-nominated - although there isn't much subtlety required. Ewan McGregor doesn't get the showy role, as the husband searching desperately for his wife and son, but he has one outstanding scene in which he makes a phonecall home and breaks down when trying to explain the situation. The elder of the three boys is played by newcomer Tom Holland, who is simply excellent. He reminded me very much of Jamie Bell in Billy Elliot.
Apart from such good performances and an emotionally engaging script and story, the real reason to see this film is the incredible sequence when the tsunami hits. It is visceral. All around me in the cinema, I could see people wrapping their arms around themselves, tense and frightened by the force of the images and sound. I can't imagine it will have anything like the same impact on the small screen and I am so glad that I got to see it at the cinema, with powerful speakers and a big screen filling up my vision with the horror of nature.