The Impossible (2012 film)

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The Impossible
Two adults and two children in a group hug
Spanish promotional poster
Directed byJ.A. Bayona
Produced by
  • Álvaro Augustin
  • Belen Atienza
  • Enrique López Lavigne
Written bySergio G. Sánchez
Music byFernando Velázquez
CinematographyÓscar Faura
Editing byElena Ruiz
Bernat Vilaplana
StudioApaches Entertainment
Telecinco Cinema
Distributed byWarner Bros. (Spain)
Summit Entertainment
(United States)
Release dates
  • 9 September 2012 (2012-09-09) (TIFF)
  • 11 October 2012 (2012-10-11) (Spain)
  • 11 January 2013 (2013-01-11) (Wide)
Running time114 minutes[1]
Budget$45 million[2]
Box office$198,087,212[3]
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The Impossible
Two adults and two children in a group hug
Spanish promotional poster
Directed byJ.A. Bayona
Produced by
  • Álvaro Augustin
  • Belen Atienza
  • Enrique López Lavigne
Written bySergio G. Sánchez
Music byFernando Velázquez
CinematographyÓscar Faura
Editing byElena Ruiz
Bernat Vilaplana
StudioApaches Entertainment
Telecinco Cinema
Distributed byWarner Bros. (Spain)
Summit Entertainment
(United States)
Release dates
  • 9 September 2012 (2012-09-09) (TIFF)
  • 11 October 2012 (2012-10-11) (Spain)
  • 11 January 2013 (2013-01-11) (Wide)
Running time114 minutes[1]
Budget$45 million[2]
Box office$198,087,212[3]

The Impossible (Spanish: Lo Imposible) is a 2012 English-language Spanish disaster drama film directed by Juan Antonio Bayona and written by Sergio G. Sánchez. It is based on the experience of María Belón and her family in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The cast includes Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and Tom Holland. The film received positive reviews from critics for its direction and its acting, especially for Watts who was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama, and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role.


English physician Maria Bennet (Watts), her Scottish husband Henry (McGregor) and their sons Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin), and Simon (Oakley Pendergrast) are on a Christmas holiday in Khao Lak, Thailand, in 2004. The tsunami triggered by the Indian Ocean earthquake floods the area with overwhelming destructive power.

Maria and Lucas are swept away from the others and barely survive; Maria is severely injured, and they find a toddler named Daniel in the wreckage who, despite Lucas' reluctance, Maria insists taking along. They are found by locals, who transfer them to a local hospital where Maria encourages Lucas to occupy himself by assisting in any way he can, which leads to his searching for strangers on behalf of relatives looking for them at the facility. Due to a mix-up, the hospital staff believe Maria, who has been moved from her bed, has died and take Lucas to a tent where children without families are being held. Maria has surgery on her injured chest and is mistakenly labeled as "Muriel Barnes". She is eventually reunited with Lucas but remains in a highly fragile medical state waiting to be deemed fit for further surgery on her leg wound, which is worsening. While waiting outside the ward, Lucas sees Daniel reuniting with his father.

Elsewhere, Henry, Thomas and Simon have survived the tsunami together, although Henry is injured. He places the children in a vehicle supposed to take tourists to a safe place while he remains behind to search for Maria and Lucas. Further injured while failing to find them, he arrives at the evacuation point only to discover that Thomas and Simon have been sent elsewhere. Communication facilities are scarce but a tourist named Karl, who was also separated from his family, lends Henry his cell phone to contact his relatives, and volunteers to accompany Henry to look for Maria and Lucas.

They search for their families in various places before they arrive at the hospital where Maria and Lucas are. The vehicle carrying Thomas and Simon stops outside the hospital; the family eventually reunites. Maria has surgery, which she survives, and the following day the family boards an ambulance airplane to Singapore arranged by their insurance company for further treatment for Maria.



The film was a co-production of Spanish film companies Apaches Entertainment and Telecinco Cinema, and employed much of the crew from The Orphanage, including the director, writer, production manager, cinematographer, composer, and editor.[5] Principal photography began 23 August 2010, in Alicante, Spain, and continued in October in Thailand.[6][7]

Director Juan Antonio Bayona decided not to specify the nationalities of the main characters in order to create a universal film in which nationalities were irrelevant to the plot.[8][9][10][11]

The tsunami was recreated with a mixture of digital effects and real water surges using miniatures that were destroyed by a huge wave created in a water tank in Spain. Bayona committed to working with real water rather than a computer-generated wave because he wanted the story to be authentic. This meant Watts and Holland spent five weeks filming physically and psychologically demanding scenes in a massive water tank.[12] 16-year-old Holland later described it as a "scary environment ...You can imagine how tiring and brutal that was."[13]

The film is the second collaboration between Watts and McGregor, having appeared together in the 2005 film Stay.


Warner Bros. released the film in Spain on 11 October 2012. The United States distribution rights were pre-bought by Summit Entertainment.[6] A teaser trailer was released on 26 December 2011.[14] After a full-length English-language trailer was released on 20 August 2012, a United States release date of 21 December 2012 was confirmed by Summit.[15] The fim had its world premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival on 9 September, where it received critical acclaim.[citation needed] It was released on 11 October 2012 in Spain and in North America on 21 December 2012, by Summit Entertainment. It was released in the United Kingdom on 1 January 2013. The film was made available by Summit Entertainment through a website streaming the movie to members of SAG-AFTRA for consideration of the SAG awards.[16]

It was released on DVD/Blu-ray in the US and Canada on Tuesday, 23 April 2013,[17] with a European release 13 May 2013.[18]


Critical response[edit]

Response to the film was positive, with much praise going to the performances of Watts, McGregor and newcomer Holland. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 81% based on reviews from 182 critics, with an average rating of 7.3/10.[19] At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film had an average score of 73, based on 42 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews."[20]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave a perfect four-star rating, praising the performances of Watts and McGregor, and the direction of Bayona. He called it "one of the best films of the year".[21]

Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter gave a very positive review, praising the performances of the two leading stars, stating that "Watts packs a huge charge of emotion as the battered, ever-weakening Maria whose tears of pain and fear never appear fake or idealized. McGregor, cut and streaked with excessive blood he seems too distraught to wash away, keeps the tension razor-sharp as he pursues his family in a vast, shattered landscape." About the film she added, "The Impossible is one of the most emotionally realistic disaster movies in recent memory – and certainly one of the most frightening in its epic re-creation of the catastrophic 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami."[22]

Justin Chang of Variety magazine gave a positive review, praising Bayona's directing and Sánchez's writing: "Collaborating again after their impressive 2007 debut feature, The Orphanage, Bayona and Sanchez get many things right here, starting with their decision to eschew a more panoramic view of the disaster to follow one family's journey from start to finish." About the performances of the main cast members he added, "Watts has few equals at conveying physical and emotional extremes, something she again demonstrates in a mostly bedridden role, and McGregor, in one of his better recent performances, manages to turn a simple phone call home into a small aria of heartbreak. Holland, in his live-action bigscreen debut, is wonderful as a kind, somewhat short-tempered kid who still has plenty to learn, setting the tone for similarly heartrending turns by young Joslin and Pendergast."[23]

A village near the coast of Sumatra lies in ruins after the tsunami that struck South East Asia

Damon Wise of The Guardian gave the film four stars out of five. He also praised the performances, stating that "as Maria, Watts is both brave and vulnerable, and her scenes with the young Lucas (the excellent Tom Holland) are among the film's best, with adult and child now unexpected equals, the mother humbled, the son rising to the challenge. McGregor, meanwhile, gives one of his best performances as the sad and desperate Henry, trying to play the hero, the provider, while knowing his cause is almost certainly lost." About the film, he added: "Part of the appeal of this affecting and powerful drama is that it puts the viewer right in the moment at every stage, using authentic locations and tsunami survivors to hammer home the reality of this tragedy."[24]

Eric Kohn of IndieWire gave the film a "B-" grade and stated that the film "suffers from the greater problem of emphasizing a feel-good plot within the context of mass destruction."[25]

Criticism has focused on the concept of whitewashing, the entertainment industry's attempt at making ethnic characters more appealing to white money-spending masses by making ethnic characters less exotic and more "white".[26] The film focuses on a white family on vacation who get separated in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami but who eventually return to their intact homes in the west. Thais are hardly present in the film, except when they offer a helping hand to the white family. Though the tsunami killed over 200,000 and severely affected the lives of roughly 2 million people in many Asian nations, the film has been criticized for its focus on the white experience while marginalizing Asians and minimizing the reality that Asians continue to live with the damage brought by the tsunami to their homes and livelihoods.[27]

Response from victims[edit]

Simon Jenkins, a British survivor from Portsmouth, wrote to The Guardian, stating the film is "beautifully accurate". This was in response to critics commenting that the movie is "overdramatic" and "whitewashed". He says of the comments, "As I must, I've never been the sort of person to revisit and analyze events of the past, but some of these articles frustrated me. 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. 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."[28]

Support UK, a support group for survivors of the tsunami, lobbied to have the trailer screened with a warning notice beforehand. A spokesman for Odeon Cinemas stated that it had no control over the content of the BBFC-approved trailer, saying, "We can only apologise for any offence caused on this occasion."[29]

Box office performance[edit]

The film enjoyed global success at the box office, grossing over $172 Million worldwide[3] ($55,267,353 in Spain).[30] In Spain the film was released on 11 October 2012, and opened in 638 theatres, grossing $11,569,306 on its opening weekend, ranking No. 1 with a per-theatre average of $18,134,[31] the highest-grossing opening weekend for a film in Spain.[32] On its second weekend the film remained at No. 1 and grossed $9,016,065 with a per-theatre average of $14,022.[33] On its third weekend it remained at No. 1 and made $5,768,184 with a per-theatre average of $9,098.[34]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Academy Awards[35]Best ActressNaomi WattsNominated
AACTA Awards[36]Best International ActressNaomi WattsNominated
Art Directors Guild[37]Best Excellence in Production Design for a Contemporary FilmEugenio CaballeroNominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards[38]Best ActressNaomi WattsNominated
Best Young ActorTom HollandNominated
Capri Awards[39][40]Capri Director AwardJuan Antonio BayonaWon
Capri European Director AwardJuan Antonio BayonaWon
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards[41]Best ActressNaomi WattsNominated
Most Promising PerformerTom HollandNominated
Cinema Writers Circle Awards[42]Best PictureThe ImpossibleNominated
Best ActressNaomi WattsWon
Best New ActorTom HollandNominated
Best DirectorJuan Antonio BayonaNominated
Best Original ScreenplaySergio G. SánchezNominated
Best CinematographyÓscar FauraNominated
Best EditingBernat Vilaplana, Elena RuizNominated
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards[43]Best ActressNaomi WattsNominated
Central Ohio Film Critics Association AwardsRunner-up[44]Best ActressNaomi WattsWon
Detroit Film Critics Society[45]Best FilmThe ImpossibleNominated
Best DirectorJuan Antonio BayonaNominated
Best ActressNaomi WattsNominated
Best Supporting ActorEwan McGregorNominated
Empire Awards[46][47]Empire Award for Best NewcomerTom HollandWon
Empire Award for Best ActressNaomi WattsNominated
Gaudí Awards[48]Best DirectorJuan Antonio BayonaWon
Best EditingElena Ruiz and Bernart VilaplanaWon
Best CinematographyÓscar FauraWon
Best SoundOriol Tarragó and Marc OrtsWon
Best Hair/Make-upDavid Martí and Montse RibéWon
Best European FilmThe ImpossibleWon
Golden Globe Awards[49]Best Actress – Motion Picture DramaNaomi WattsNominated
Goya Awards[50]Best FilmThe ImpossibleNominated
Best DirectorJuan Antonio BayonaWon
Best ActressNaomi WattsNominated
Best Supporting ActorEwan McGregorNominated
Best New ActorTom HollandNominated
Best Original ScreenplaySergio G. Sánchez and María BelónNominated
Best CinematographyÓscar FauraNominated
Best EditingElena Ruiz and Bernat VillaplanaWon
Best Art DirectionEugenio CaballeroNominated
Best Production SupervisionSandra Hermida MuñizWon
Best SoundPeter Glossop, Marc Orts and Oriol TarragóWon
Best Special EffectsPau Costa and Félix BergésWon
Best Makeup and HairstylesAlessandro Bertolazzi, David Martí and Montse RibéNominated
Best Original ScoreFernando VelázquezNominated
Hollywood Film Festival[51]Spotlight AwardTom HollandWon
Houston Film Critics Society[52]Best ActressNaomi WattsNominated
Las Vegas Film Critics Society[53]Sierra Award for Best PictureThe ImpossibleNominated
London Film Critics Circle Awards[54]Young British Performer of the YearTom HollandWon
National Board of Review USA[55]Best Breakthrough ActorTom HollandWon
Palm Springs International Film Festival[56][57]Desert Palm Achievement AwardNaomi WattsWon
Phoenix Film Critics Society[58]Best Youth Performance in a Lead or Supporting Role – MaleTom HollandWon
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards[59]Best ActressNaomi WattsNominated
Sant Jordi Awards[60]Best Spanish FilmThe ImpossibleWon
Saturn Awards[61]Best Horror or Thriller FilmThe ImpossibleNominated
Best ActressNaomi WattsNominated
Best Young ActorTom HollandNominated
Best Make-upDavid Martin, Montse Ribé and Vasit SuchittaNominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards[62]Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading RoleNaomi WattsNominated
Teen Choice Awards[63]Choice Movie DramaThe ImpossibleNominated
Choice Movie Actress DramaNaomi WattsNominated
Visual Effects Society Awards[64]Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion PicturePau Costa, Sandra Hermida, Félix BergésWon
Outstanding Models in a Feature Motion Picture:The Orchid HotelNominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards[65]Best Youth PerformanceTom HollandNominated
Young Artist Awards[66]Best Performance in a Feature Film – Leading Young ActorTom HollandWon
Best Performance in a Feature Film – Supporting Young ActorSamuel JoslinNominated
Best Performance in a Feature Film – Supporting Young Actor Ten and UnderOakley PendergastNominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "'THE IMPOSSIBLE' (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. 15 October 2012. Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  2. ^ "The Impossible". Dark Futures Pty. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "The Impossible". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 21 April 2013. 
  4. ^ Triplett, Gene (4 January 2013). "Movie review: 'The Impossible'". Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  5. ^ Ríos Pérez, Sergio (5 May 2010). "Álmodovar, Bayona make 'ambitious, high-quality European films from Spain'". Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  6. ^ a b Kay, Jeremy (2 May 2010). "Summit boards Bayona's English-language debut The Impossible". Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  7. ^ "The Impossible". Screenbase. Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  8. ^ Howard, Courtney (13 December 2012). "INTERVIEW: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, J.A. Bayona, Sergio G. Sánchez, Belén Atienza & Maria Belon Talk THE IMPOSSIBLE". Very Aware Movie Blog. Retrieved 3 January 2013. 
  9. ^ Randolph, Grace (13 December 2012). "WATCH: Ewan McGregor & Naomi Watts Talking About Preparing For 'The Impossible'". Movieline. Retrieved 3 January 2013. 
  10. ^ Kenber, Ben (14 December 2012). "Tsunami Survivor Maria Belon Reflects on 'The Impossible'". Yahoo!. Retrieved 3 January 2013. 
  11. ^ Hayes, Brogen (31 December 2012). "THE IMPOSSIBLE – Behind The Scenes". Retrieved 3 January 2013. 
  12. ^ Curtis, Rachel (21 December 2012). "Tsunami survivor's impossible story hits the big screen to look after his little brother". BBC News. 
  13. ^ Black, Claire (21 December 2012). "Schoolboy actor Tom Holland finds himself in Oscar contention for role in tsunami drama". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  14. ^ "First Teaser Trailer for THE IMPOSSIBLE Starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor". Retrieved 12 September 2012. 
  15. ^ "Watch: 'The Impossible' Trailer Starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor". Rope of Silicon. Retrieved 12 September 2012. 
  16. ^ "Screen Actors Guild Awards 2013". 
  17. ^ "Amazon – The Impossible". Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  18. ^ "Amazon – The Impossible". Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  19. ^ "The Impossible". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  20. ^ "The Impossible". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  21. ^ "The Impossible". Chicago Sun-Times. 19 December 2012. 
  22. ^ Young, Deborah (10 September 2012). "The Impossible: Toronto Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  23. ^ Chang, Justin (10 September 2012). "The Impossible". Variety. Reed Elsevier Properties Inc. Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  24. ^ Wise, Damon (12 September 2012). "The Impossible". Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  25. ^ Kohn, Eric (9 September 2012). "Toronto Review: Juan Antonio Bayona's 'The Impossible' Is an Intense Realization of the 2004 Tsunami at Odds With Overstated Sentimentalism". A SnagFilms Co. Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ Cox, David (2 January 2013). "Attempting the Impossible: why does western cinema whitewash Asian stories?". Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  28. ^ Jenkins, Simon (4 January 2013). "The Impossible is 'beautifully accurate', writes tsunami survivor". Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  29. ^ "Survivors of 2004 tsunami left horrified after being 'ambushed' by trailer for movie about Boxing Day tragedy". Daily Mail. 25 December 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  30. ^ "International Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  31. ^ "Spain Box Office Results for October 12–14, 2012". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 5 November 2012. 
  32. ^ "Global Showbiz Briefs: Maggie Smith, 'Impossible' Breaks Spanish Records, 'Beauty' To UK's Watch, BBC Turmoil". Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  33. ^ "Spain Box Office Results for October 19–21, 2012". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 5 November 2012. 
  34. ^ "Spain Box Office Results for October 26–28, 2012". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 5 November 2012. 
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  36. ^ "2nd AACTA International Awards Nominees". Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA). 9 January 2013. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
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  38. ^
  39. ^ Lyman, Eric (2 January 2013). "'Silver Linings Playbook' Wins Most Awards at Italy's Capri, Hollywood Fest". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  40. ^
  41. ^ Hanna, Beth (17 December 2012). "PTA's 'Master' Leads Chicago Film Critics Nominations, UPDATED: Houston and Indiana Critics Nominations". IndieWire. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  42. ^
  43. ^ Arnold Wayne Jones (18 December 2012). "DFW Film Critics bestow 2012 awards". Dallas Voice. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  44. ^
  45. ^ Long, Tom (10 December 2012). "Detroit Film Critics nominations". The Detroit News. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  46. ^ Blackall, Luke (24 March 2013). "Jameson Empire Film Awards: Martin Freeman wins best actor for performance in The Hobbit". The Independent. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  47. ^ Maynard, Trent (22 March 2013). "News: Empire Film Awards 2013 Nominees". 4Music. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
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  49. ^
  50. ^ "Nominaciones Goya 2013 Telecinco Cinema – ENG". 8 January 2013. Retrieved 3 February 2013. 
  51. ^ ""The Hollywood Spotlight Awards" line-up includes Samantha Barks, Bella Heathcote, Tom Holland, John Magaro, Ezra Miller, and Kelly Reilly". Hollywood Film Awards. 17 October 2012. Retrieved 3 February 2013. 
  52. ^ Knegt, Peter (6 January 2013). "'Argo' Leads Houston Film Critics' Society Awards". IndieWire. Retrieved 3 February 2013. 
  53. ^ "Las Vegas Film Critics Society 2012 Award Listings". Retrieved 3 February 2013. 
  54. ^ "33rd Critics' Circle Film Awards winners". Retrieved 3 February 2013. 
  55. ^ "National Board of Review Current Awards". 
  56. ^ Carpenter, Cassie (6 January 2013). "Oasis in the desert: Naomi Watts lights up Palm Springs Film Festival gala in elegant Grecian gown as she joins stunning Diane Lane and Helen Mirren at star-studded event". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  57. ^ "Watts Receives Award Distinction from Palm Springs International Film Festival". Palm Springs Life. November 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  58. ^ "Phoenix Film Critics Society 2012 Annual Awards". Phoenix Film Critics Society. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
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  60. ^
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  62. ^ "SAG Awards 2013: The complete winners and nominees list". Los Angeles Times. 27 January 2013. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  63. ^ Cosgrave, Sean. "2013 Teen Choice Awards". Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
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  65. ^ Tapley, Kristopher (10 December 2012). "'Lincoln' leads Washington DC Area film critics nominations, 'Zero Dark Thirty' wins". HitFix. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  66. ^ "34th Annual Young Artist Awards". Retrieved 31 March 2013. 

External links[edit]