Newcomer Tom Holland stares down a tsunami

IT seems odd that it has taken eight years for a major film to come along about the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.
It was touched upon in the 2010 Clint Eastwood film Hereafter, but given that 250,000 people lost their lives in the sixth-deadliest natural disaster of all time, it has been largely ignored by Hollywood.
It seems too far away a place and subject to really interest Western audiences and even The Impossible, which stars Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts, is a Spanish funded production that changes the ethnicity of the protagonist family from Spanish to British.
Very, very British.
Whether or not this deters you from seeing, or enjoying The Impossible is entirely up to you, but in the rush to condemn the film makers and posit on the homogeny of Hollywood, remember that the film comes with the blessing of the Spanish family, the Belons.
It is their story that is told, but really it is a universal story; one of family, survival and adversity.
As the tsunami struck on St Stephen’s Day 2004, paradise was turned into hell for holiday-makers and locals alike.
Part of the reluctance to film the event may have been the trouble with capturing the sheer scale of the disaster.
On a physical film-making level it is an onerous task and one which could not be achieved by half-measures.
Spanish wunderkind JA Bayona showed in 2007’s horror The Orphanage that he more than has the chops for such a task and his 10-minute take on the moments the water hit land is nothing short of spectacular.
As characters are flung around underwater, tossed among debris and detritus, the shuddering camera work and thunderous sound design make the wave as scary as it is spectacular.
Bayona’s technical expertise belies a director with an ability to capture real human drama.
Here, the wave does not form a large portion of the running time and is instead the set up for a harrowing family drama.
Eldest son Lucas (Tom Holland) and mother Maria (Naomi Watts) are separated from the rest of their family.
From there, the spectacle is dropped down a notch as the focus becomes survival.
If there were any grumbles about the changing of ethnicity of the main characters, there can be no complaint about the actors drafted in to play the English family.
In Naomi Watts, the family finds a fitting matriarch; strong-willed, selfless and vulnerable, her performance is one that could easily go over the top, but in the hands of as skilled an actress as Watts, it never does.
Likewise Ewan McGregor, who never lets his performance stray in melodrama.
But the highlight of the film is a breakout performance from Tom Holland.
Playing stroppy eldest boy Lucas, the 16-year-old delivers one of the best film debuts ever.