The Impossible, an intense realistic film based on a true story about a European family vacationing in Thailand. On the day after Christmas 2004, they are ripped apart by the Indian Ocean Tsunami that struck Southeast Asia. Don’t consider this your average catastrophe movie. It is so much more. A gargantuan wall of water the likes of Niagara wreaking havoc on unsuspecting tourists? Yes. Physical, emotional, and mental survival in the face of frightening events? Yes. Incredibly acted by a less-than-star-studded cast? Yes (As brilliant as Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts are, they are equally matched by three children, particularly young Tom Holland’s debut as the oldest son). But what really makes this movie is the underlying message: despite an epic natural disaster the likes of which most of us, thankfully, will never experience (a non-man-made “act of God” and the epitome of the problem of evil in the world), the “problem of love” still rules.
As the aftermath of the disaster unfolds, Maria (Watts) and her oldest son Lucas (Holland) struggle through a torrent of water and deadly debris to get to safety only to find her injuries are more serious than she thought—the skin on the back lower part of her right leg has been stripped away and she suffers a puncture wound to her chest. Separated from her husband Henry (McGregor) and the other two children, they assume the worst. Meanwhile, Henry has the younger ones holed up in the destroyed resort, as he frantically searches for his missing wife and other son. They are surrounded by utter devastation, dead bodies, and other desperate survivors. The problem of evil reigns.
As the waters subside, Maria, despite severe pain, is compelled to save a toddler crying in the wreckage over the objection of Lucas. Meanwhile, Henry meets a group of survivors who sympathetically share their stories of trauma. One of the men gives Henry his cell phone to call his father back home despite the low battery and his own painful wait for a return call from his family. To help in the search, he joins Henry, who is forced to send the two younger ones to a shelter on their own under the protection of a complete stranger. Native villagers rescue Maria, Lucas, and the newly adopted Daniel. The suspense builds as Lucas must care for his mother fighting for her life in a local, chaotic hospital bursting at the seams with bloody victims as dedicated medical staff perform heroic feats. Lucas’ heart turns from self-preservation to empathy as he finds joy in helping and seeing others find their loved ones, including Daniel. Meanwhile, Lucas’ younger brother—now separated from the woman entrusted to him—must fight back fears to parent and protect his own younger brother.
In the end, life-threatening tragedy and harrowing suspense is overcome by empathy, kindness, love, and the dogged determination of the human spirit. Atheists may point to the problem of evil in the world as to why they disbelieve in a loving God, but journeys like The Impossible point to a far greater challenge. One more difficult to explain in the face of senseless destruction: the problem of human love and compassion for others in the wake of inexplicable suffering and death. That kind of sacrificial love may be a problem for the materialist who believes life is ultimately meaningless, but for the spiritual, it’s evidence of a beautiful Mystery. This one’s a must see.