Chasing beach balls across the sand, sipping bubbly drinks by a sparkling pool—suddenly the power goes out in your hotel, and a distant rumble turns to a maddening rush as a 96-foot wall of water lifts out of the sea. You put your arms around your children, in a futile effort to protect them, as all goes black.
The opening scenes of The Impossible portray one real-life family’s experience of the tsunami that hit Asia on Dec. 26, 2004. Maria (Naomi Watts) and Henry (Ewan McGregor) take their family to Thailand for Christmas, prepared for a relaxing holiday. But as the tsunami hits, they are swallowed by a watery chaos.
The story then follows Maria and her oldest son Lucas (played brilliantly by Tom Holland) as they struggle to find the rest of their family and reach safety. Maria is gravely injured, and her headstrong son and some locals must find a way to snatch her from the brink of death. From beginning to end, it is familial love that gives this story heart and propels it forward. Be forewarned, though, it is a very violent, occasionally gory PG-13 film that also contains brief nudity. Fleshed out with outstanding acting and striking cinematography, emotionally it hits hard.
At one point we join two little boys alone on the beach at night, being mothered by a stranger. She directs their attention to the twinkling stars and explains that many of the stars they can see are dead, yet their light travels on without them. “How can you tell which ones are dead and which ones aren’t?” the blond-haired boy asks. “Oh, you can’t,” she replies. “It’s a beautiful mystery.” Without something bigger to cling to, they cherish a nameless hope.
All the while, their father is searching for them among the beach’s twisted buildings and sandy catacombs. Seeking that which is lost, he risks his own safety to bring about what seems impossible—to find them and bring them home. In the light of the gospel, it’s a beautiful mystery indeed.