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Generally favorable reviews- based on 252 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 10 out of 252

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  1. Nov 13, 2014
    "The Impossible" 10 Scale Rating: 7.0 (Good) ...

    The Good: Extremely intense reenactment of the Indonesian tsunami. The film does a great job depicting the native people of Thailand as they reached out to help tourists from other countries despite the fact that they had just lost everything. Great acting, though I feel that McGregor should have gotten the award buzz over Watts.

    Bad: Becomes extremely slow in the middle. I understand that it was based on a true story and accuracy was important, but very little happens for a good hour of the film. Despite a 1:53 runtime (typical for films of this nature), the slow pace made it feel a little longer. Expand
  2. Sep 1, 2014
    This film made the impossible actually possible for us. This is one of the most moving films I've ever seen. Naomi Watts and her son, played by Tom Holland, give truly gifted performances.
  3. Dec 22, 2013
    With dramatic disaster sequences and many truly heartfelt moments, The Impossible does "the impossible": it creates a disaster movie that is actually realistic and has a heart. Although it may get a little "Hollywood" in the final third, the movie is forgiven by its many positive aspects.
  4. Nov 16, 2013
    The Impossible is one of those movies I could watch time and time again. I watched the movie once a day for four days. The reason the movie was so intriguing to me was the story of love, faith, and facing what seemed impossible as a family. The movie was suspenseful and kept me on the edge of my seat. There were multiple times where I wanted to cry out of sadness and cry tears of joy. The Impossible had many elements needed to create an incredible movie.

    The acting also impressed me. Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, and Oaklee Pendergast did a great job at playing the roles of he kids. They did a great job displaying true emotions and demonstrating love for one another. I was very impressed with Naomi Watts. She did an extraordinary job having to act many different emotions and being real in the unfortunate circumstances. I definitely recommend The Impossible.
  5. Nov 9, 2013
    Even if everything is heartbreaking, and the actors give their best, everything is spoiled by the unsatisfying conclusion that just cancels the whole truth of the film.
  6. Sep 1, 2013
    There's a feeling of triumph and bittersweet emotion when watching 'The Impossible', tragic yet triumphant on various levels of filmmaking, acting and adapting a true story of one of the most tragic events in history, the Indian Ocean tsunami that changed the lives of many caught off-guard in this natural catastrophe. We hear the story of Maria Bennett, who is based on survivor María Belón, who recounted her story for the film, where we see Maria and her family visiting Thailand on their Christmas holiday, their common worries and life problems are swept away as the family is torn apart by the devastating tsunami. Naomi Watts gives a spellbinding performance as Maria, who manages to find her eldest son, Lucas (Tom Holland) nearby, but cannot see her husband or other two boys anywhere. From here we see the brute force and devastation that an 'Act of God' can deliver, injuries and sickness aside, the destruction of family is an act that is beyond repair, especially when nothing can be done to stop it.
    It's Watts and Holland who masterfully command the screen as a mother and son brought closer together by loss, young Lucas must bear seeing his mother in some very vulnerable situations, but manages to help others around him, accepting that his father and brothers may be dead.
    But it has been shot with such clarity and depth that we get one story after the other, where Lucas is in a terrible place, but his father Henry (Ewan McGregor) is also in a terrible place, more so because of how helpless he feels that he cannot find his wife and eldest son, these three stars each give performances that demand perfection and respect.
    The film shows how a situation brings the common man together, through hope and sometimes heartache, the film is a testament to the good inside everyone, something we see throughout the film as strangers from various parts of the world band together in the face of danger, and it is also a testament at how differences and problems are put away when something natural can affect the lives of everyone in the same way as the person next to them. The title hold relevance to many aspects of the film, the unlikelihood of survival, the mission of finding survivors, the devastation caused, but also the bond that can be shared in times of need, highly improbable, but not impossible.
    This is an honest and detailed film, which is shot in an emotional sense of being there, where we can relate with terror and angst with these characters, and revel in their hopeful good fortunes, the film takes pride in cataloging an horrific incident with such force and thrill, but also showing human nature winning out.
  7. Aug 31, 2013
    WOW!! Awesome!!! It's one of the best films I have ever seen!! I was ready to cry in the end. I enjoyed it!!! Bravo!! Excellent!!! Epic and stunning!!!!!
  8. Aug 19, 2013
    c'The Impossible' is an absorbing, well-shot, well-acted film with convincing special effects. It is based on fact. It provides the experience of having one's family caught in a catastrophe with a vividness few other films have had. My qualm is with the film-makers' decision, faced with an event that killed an estimated eight thousand people in Thailand alone and devastated countless families, to take for their subject an extraordinarily fortunate family of British tourists who were violently separated and endured terrific trauma, but who managed to find each other and return home with every family member alive.

    The story of this family is pretty inspiring, but should Bayona have considered making a film about a Thai family that did suffer loss, as innumerable families did? Is his message that when calamity strikes us we suffer great terror and difficulty, but it will all be O.K. in the end? And why are nearly all the other people we meet in this movie also European? Why are there so few Thai people? Why does nearly every one speak English? Amid so much destruction, why do we see barely any dead people? Did one of the only films made about this titanic South-East Asian cataclysm really have to star Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts?
  9. Jul 22, 2013
    Gripping, interesting plot, great actors, especially Naomi my fav, great graphics and special effects, loved it. Most intriguing is that it is based on true events. I think some of it may have been a little over scaled, like how the med staff, and natives generally were so polite and caring... I still don't get how did the kids manage to survive on a tree, how did they climb it so fast, in such horrific and fast paced circumstances? Expand
  10. Jul 21, 2013
    The Impossible was one of the most suffocating and powerful emotional dramas I've ever seen and the fact that it is a true story constantly plays in the back of your mind while watching, effectively multiplying the emotion and drama even more. The acting was incredible and the special effects, especially the tsunami scene in the beginning, were fantastic. Having seen almost most of the critically acclaimed films in the 2012 year, I can now say that they made a mistake in giving the Best Actress in a Leading Role to Jennifer Lawrence for her role in The Silver Linings Playbook. That award should've gone to Naomi Watts for her incredible and moving performance in this film. Lawrence did great but Watts was amazing, key difference in my opinion. The Academy's blunder aside, The Impossible is a movie that is definitely worth a watch. Expand
  11. Jul 14, 2013
    The impossible is just one of those films that reminds us of how small our lives are and how important it is to not take it for granted with pride,greed ,cruelty... but to be good, love....
  12. Jun 29, 2013
    It blew me away that this movie is based on true events, but for cinematic purposes the build at the ending was lacking something. Overall enjoyable.
  13. Jun 17, 2013
    A total "wow!". This film touches the deepest of emotions when it comes to family and love. This is unforgettable in every aspect. Best performance from Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts. Excellent screenplay, cinematography, sound, and editing. Possibly the best film of 2012 and the-one-to-beat for the decade.
  14. BKM
    Jun 12, 2013
    The performances are all excellent; particularly those of Watts, McGregor and Holland, and the recreation of the tsunami is terrifyingly real. But The Impossible never really taps into any genuine emotions and it never digs too deeply into the horrific aftermath. It's ultimately a tidy movie about an unfathomable tragedy.
  15. Jun 11, 2013
    The plot is bold and simple, soundtrack is over the top, and it is mocking the real victims of the disaster by focussing on the supposedly heartbreaking story of some westerners spoiled holiday while 300k died around them.
  16. Jun 9, 2013
    Such a great movie nowadays it is difficult to be seen. The Impossible or Lo impossible is based on a true story of a Spanish family that despite their tragedies they found each other. It is moving and sad. Naomi Watts and Tom Holland were excellent. Ewan Mc Gregor and the two little boys were great. A great picture. Really liked it
  17. Jun 9, 2013
    Intense & riveting story of survival. Bayona recreates the punishing & deadly tsunami in visually impressive & gut-wrenching fashion. Watts is extraordinary, but Holland’s heroic performance is captivating. -MN
  18. May 25, 2013
    A rather boring flick about a father, mother and three sons who are separated when a tsunami hits. The rest of the film is about them trying to find one another. That's it! The star isn't Naomi Watts but rather all the flotsam and jetsam in the aftermath of the tsunami. There are many more shots of the devastation and debris than there are of her, and for her fans, half the movie features Naomi's face full of bruises. I think you can do better. Expand
  19. May 5, 2013
    Bring your Kleenex this film will have you an emotional mess. To imagine in the blink of an eye your swept up by water and you have no idea where your family is or if their even alive would be scary. This is a great movie that is really hard to watch.
  20. Apr 28, 2013
    The film starts off very unpleasant, but it eventually builds up to a solid climax, with some very inspirational and honest emotion along the way. The film is definitely not for everyone.
  21. Apr 26, 2013
    This is an important movie. It is a powerful message about nature, family, love and the fact we are all part of the same tribe, surviving by working together as humans. A testament to what truly matters in this world. Difficult to watch but extremely worth the time. It is the best movie I've seen this year. It made me think and give my kids a hug. It puts everything we do into perspective. Ask yourself after you see it what truly matters. Expand
  22. Apr 25, 2013
    mawkish adj. 1. Excessively and objectionably sentimental. 2. Sickening or insipid in taste. To describe The Impossible as mawkish is like calling Joe Pesci's character in Goodfellas "not nice". The Impossible is one family's story of survival in the aftermath of the tsunami that struck Thailand on Boxing Day in 2004. The special effects used to recreate the tsunami are very impressive. I was saying "Wow" at that point of the movie. As the film progressed, I found myself saying "Wow" in a different manner; while rolling my eyes in disbelief at the acting and dialog. A better title for this flick would have been The Implausible.

    The screenplay is by Sergio G. Sánchez from María Belón's story. Belón is the woman portrayed in the film by Naomi Watts. Since the writers were Spanish, we can only hope that something was lost in translation since I hardly believed any of the characters' words.

    Watts does a decent job in the lead role, and it's a credit to her that she succeeds even to that extent, considering the direction and writing. Other actors don't fare as well. Tom Holland, who plays her son Lucas, shows some promise as an actor, but here he mostly comes off as an overly sentimental caricature. The other main character is the father portrayed by Ewan McGregor. McGregor's "acting" consists mainly of looking anguished in blood-smear makeup while screaming out the names of his family members.

    Director Juan Antonio Bayona has decided that the best way to convey the hardship and emotions experienced by the poor souls who suffered through this ordeal is to show closeups of their faces to the accompaniment of some Williamsesque music done to the nth degree. I could just imagine John Williams (a.k.a. The Big Schmaltzy) sitting in a theater where this was playing, wincing and saying, "Eww, too much music."

    I have to say that I felt a little uncomfortable while watching this movie. Here was a real and devastating tragedy, and I was feeling as much emotion as I do when I watch my computer run a virus scan. Those who suffered through this catastrophe deserve to have their stories told with dignity and gravitas. At the very least they deserve more than this uninspired and maudlin celluloid effort.
  23. Apr 24, 2013
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. There is no way this movie can have a 73 rating on here. The movie is just so agonizing to watch. To start out with, there is no way the entire family could have survived this, as they show the guy and his two sons taking the full impact of the huge wave at the beginning of the movie. The boys don't even have a scratch. Just ridiculous. The endless sequence of the mother and the other son is just that...never ending moaning and screaming. They show a wound in the mother's right leg that is so huge that there is just no way she could walk, let The blood loss would kill her in less than two minutes. The young boys say things young boys would never say in real life, it is way too obvious that they are just saying memorized lines. There is no character development whatsoever. The father leaves his two young boys, possibly all he got left, in the middle of the night to search for his wife and other son who are likely dead He doesn't even know where the boys are going. No father would do that.
    Even the only possibly redeeming scene, the wave hitting land is, cheap and bad. This could easily be Ewan McGregor's worst role. Almost two hours of agony.
  24. Apr 2, 2013
    The film starts with a real bang, with a ten-minute reenactment of the tidal wave and its devastation, depicted by Boyona in the most graphic and brutal way. What follows is inevitably an anticlimax, however the amazing cinematography and the incredible stand-out performance comes from 16-year-old Holland make it worth while watching till the end.
  25. Feb 27, 2013
    Naomi Watts just seized her second Oscar nomination (ended with an inevitable lose though) in this tsunami catastrophe survival drama which happened in South Asia 2004. Directed by Spanish young director Juan Antonio Bayona (yes, it is a Spanish production in spite of its mainly English-speaking cast), which marks his comeback after the internationally-accoladed debut THE ORPHANAGE (2007, 8/10), an ingeniously orchestrated horror-fest. The film’s first half is a lip-smacking triumph not only for the special visual effects simulating the walls of water and its overwhelming impact, it’s like HEREAFTER (2010, 6/10) meets 127 HOURS (2010, 8/10), vividly renders a kindness of faithful vicariousness on viewers through the white-knuckle self-salvage from the mother-son dyad. And if HEREAFTER could nab an Oscar nomination for BEST VISUAL EFFECTS, THE IMPOSSIBLE easily trumps it. But for the second half, the storytelling adopts a middle-of-the-road sentimentality, it is all about the reunion, still, there is a remarkable achievement for the editing team (and the cinematography group as well) to interlace Watts’ flashbacks under the water with the operation she is undergoing, which is done with an eye-opening flourish. Adapted from a true event, from one hand, it affirmatively obviates the barbs like what’s the odds the entire family (one couple with 3 son, age 12, 7 and 5 respectively) could pull through the calamity, it is a genuine miracle literally had happened (as far as the denouement concerned), so just deal with it! But from the other hand, the film shamefully sacrifices the accuracy for the sake of the emotional climax, which is a prerequisite for selling the tickets I suppose, and it worked (my eyes swelled with tears for many occasions), even simultaneously there is a tint of bathos ascending when the five of them finally find each other altogether at one place one time, it is so lame! Anyway, the film is also a victory for the cast, although Watts is bedridden for half of her time on screen, her hard-earned Oscar nomination is well-deserved, an impeccable endeavor out of the mundanity of her character (a woman try to survive under a dire circumstance). Tom Holland, the true leading man and great discovery from the film as the eldest son, has a stunning resemblance of a young Jamie Bell (what a coincidence, Tom was actually had a stint in BILLY ELLIOTS the musical to play the titular role in 2008, and call it sexism, academy never nominates teenage actors for their leading roles), most of the time he is the audience’s proxy, we see through his eyes, his precocity and gallantry dominates the most chunk of the film’s narrative and it has been executed unimpeachably. Ewan McGregor, absent for a disturbingly long time in the film, can only descend himself in a supporting part, he is a consistent great player in the race who is unfortunately always falling under the Oscar radar by only a notch, his cellphone-calling scene should be inscribed in every Oscar voter’s mind, so next time, his glory will be duly justified. Also, the great Geraldine Chaplin, delivers the punchline “the impossibility of death stars” in her unforgettable cameo.

    Juan Antonio Bayona has warranted his craftsmanship in dealing with spectacular sensations, so Hollywood might beckon him to their wonderland, even if not, I daresay the next big thing is on the rising. ps, I guess Seth MacFarlane did see this film since apart from MULHOLLAND DR. (2001, 9/10) we also saw your boobs here, Naomi, but this time we are in a rueful mood.
  26. Feb 21, 2013
    Driving on intense emotional pain, explicit physical human damage and unbearable scenarios of brutal tragedy and deep suffering, The Impossible is a truly independent disaster movie minus any Hollywood trans fat. Absent of absurd fantastical elements plaguing high-end disaster movies in Hollywood, The Impossible is a film which uses the real disaster of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and one family’s compelling true story of survival that surfaced cause of it. The Impossible may not be the best disaster movie ever made nor may it be the greatest parable for the strength of family and the bonds of community, but it sure as hell makes for one deeply satisfying emotional tale of endurance and hope. Re-Telling the story of Maria Belon’s family’s inexplicable survival, The Impossible is a retelling of one family’s journey during one of the worst natural disasters ever recorded. Belon, along with her husband, were vacationing in Thailand from their busy lives back home in Japan. Caught without any warning, Belon and her family held on long and hard enough to live to tell the tale of there family’s unbelievable tale of survival. Drenched with compelling special effects and outstanding stunt work, this was second in comparison to the stellar showcase of Naomi Watts’ acting range. Being in front of the camera the longest and having her story told for the majority of the movie, Watts was harrowing as an injured mother clinging on to her life for the sake of her children. Accompanied by one of the stand-out performances by a newcomer this year, Tom Holland who plays Watts’ son Lucas and her sole companion for the first half of the film, was completely on-point and the two were a dynamic acting duo. The two performances sparkled with life and ingenious moments of sheer beauty. Ewan McGregor did his best and held his own with what seemed like ridiculous plot-points for a father and very little screen time with two child actors (Oaklee Pendergast and Samuel Joslin) who were significantly overshadowed by Holland.
    The film itself owes great credit to its sophomore director Juan Antonia Bayona, whose direction is strategically planned and appreciated throughout the film. Dealing with a narrative with so much room for emotional manipulation, Bayona masterfully paces the film and its stars for small yet powerful instances of truly great human feats.
    The Impossible is a gut-wrentching and heart breaking marvel of a film. Layered with multiple challenges of the people who struggled to survive during a time of hardship and tragedy, The Impossible is a tale of true possible hope for the good in all people to shine. Challenging in not only content and the visuals it presents to the audience, the film is a challenge for people to accept and believe that good exists within everyone, especially during times of strife and extreme hardship. Physically challenging and magnificent, The Impossible is a true example of a small scale film doing it right with large scale heart.
  27. Feb 19, 2013
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. The Impossible is an amazing, inspiring film. It shows the struggles and fear of the survivors from the tsunami. A true story, literally a matter of life or death. Naomi Watts acts brilliantly as the mum of the family, suffering a terrible injury, and in parts of the film, struggling to survive. The Impossible is a film worth watching, both emotional and endearing. Expand
  28. Feb 15, 2013
    I had low expectations going in but this movie was phenomenal. Such powerful storytelling found in very small moments and superb acting. The disaster scenes are not overdone and this movie does not contain all the cliches that you would expect from a movie of this subject. I don't know why Naomi Watts isn't considered a front-runner for her performance. It was breathtaking.
  29. Feb 15, 2013
    I have to disagree with many of the reviews here. This movie is way too fluffy. It coincides with movies like Soul Surfer.

    I have a hard time with movies that just pile on the “feel good” and “feel bad” scenes with a strict plan to simply make you cry.

    I know this is a true story, but the fluff makes it feel like it’s in no way a true story at all. It makes it appear not very
    realistic. Zero Dark Thirty would be an example of a movie based on a true story that doesn’t pander to the “I really need to “feel good” and “feel bad” audience (and thus feels like it really happended).

    I do have to give thumbs up on Naomi’s performance. She was outstanding. I didn’t believe the rest of the cast’s performance however.
  30. Feb 13, 2013
    One of the most harrowing natural disasters in recent history forms the basis for The Impossible, the most recent film from director Juan Antonio Bayona, the acclaimed director of the Orphanage. The film follows a family vacationing in Thailand for Christmas back in 2004 when the Boxing Day tsunami hits. the film tells the true story of a families struggle to survive in the most shocking of conditions following an unspeakable horror. Much like The Orphanage, The Impossible is a story more about reconnection than survival as this family of five struggle to find each other in a country that is completely alien to them, in a place where almost everyone is trying to find someone and has no time for others. Films like this have the tendency to over sentimentalize the material and its true that the film loses its identity in favor of a big dose of cheddar as the film draws to its conclusion but it almost doesn't matter after the ordeal that is the first hour. The Impossible is a grueling watch in its unbiased depiction of a people and a country ravaged by an unapologetic ocean of water. The cast is led by Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts, who both give give stunning performances as Henry and Maria, parents to children Lucas, Thomas and Simon. Watts deserves her recent Oscar nomination for her all in performance as Maria, a woman with great courage and conviction tasked with the unbelievable task of keeping Lucas safe even though she doubts she will make it. Mcgregor's worried father Henry is equally as affecting as Watts is because he is exactly the opposite of Maria, he doesn't know how to hide the fear he has for his family, especially Lucas and Maria. Lucas is played with great skill by child actor Tom Hollander who shows the heart of the character even when the script forces him to film flop from a teenager to a child and back again. The characters are the best thing about the script by Sergio G Sanchez but Lucas seems to regress into a 5 year old boy half way through the film to service a side plot that is thoroughly irritating. The script itself is absolutely woeful, in fact the only reason the film isn't a 9 or a 10 is because the script is so bad it ruins both the opening and the end with the opening being unnatural and stiff and the end being over the top and borderline offensive. The actors struggle through lines about leaving the alarm on, something that in a better script would seem like a perfectly normal thing to talk about but this script is so dreadful it makes the lines seem like comedy, something you really don't expect from a film with graphic content and highly distressing themes, it just feels wrong. Overall though the film is saved by some fantastic direction through the initial wave right up to the uplifting finale, as well as by some devastating performances, none more so than Ms Watts, an actress I had not rated until this film. It's fearless and powerful and for that reason alone it will make most people bawl their eyes out in the most cathartic way possible. An emotional roller coaster of a film. Expand

Generally favorable reviews - based on 42 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 33 out of 42
  2. Negative: 2 out of 42
  1. Reviewed by: David Denby
    Jan 24, 2013
    Movies are good at this sort of brute physicality, but the trouble with The Impossible is that is also tells a rather banal story. [28 Jan. 2012, p.81]
  2. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Jan 4, 2013
    This is an affecting and emotional drama about the strength of the human spirit.
  3. Reviewed by: Lawrence Toppman
    Jan 4, 2013
    Yet as fine as she and Ewan McGregor are as the parents, Tom Holland stands out as eldest son Lucas, a slightly sullen teen who learns to put other people before himself.