When the Indian Ocean Tsunami hit the coasts of South East Asia in December 2004, hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives and millions were left homeless. It's one of the worst natural disasters recorded in recent history and the devastation caused goes beyond anyone's imagination or understanding.

The Impossible, an astounding true story of a family swept apart by the horrific events, is captivating and visually engaging – it’ll stir even the coldest of hearts.

The story follows the Bennett family; Maria (Watts), Henry (McGregor) and their three sons Lucas (Holland), Simon (Pendergast) and Thomas (Joslin), as they make their way to Thailand for their Christmas holidays. They like what they see the family quickly settles in and starts enjoying their time in the sun. Everything seems to be going well; the boys are woken up on Christmas day by their parents who video their boys' wide-eyed faces on their hand-held camcorder.

Unfortunately, the joy is short-lived. Come Boxing Day, they, and all the other guests, are lind-sided by ninety eight foot-high waves that hit the shore, swallowing everything in their way. The family gets torn and swept apart from each other by the deadly forces of the water, now awash with floating cars, lounge chairs, bicycles and other dangerous debris.

The Impossible is the first English-language feature from acclaimed Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona. Working from a script by Sergio G. Sanchez, Bayona masterfully elevates this true survival story above any other with his portrayal of the storm and its atrocious aftermath.

The tsunami outbreak sequence creates a demoralising sense of the unknown and as we get taken in and out of the muddy waters.

The repercussions are even worse than the storm itself; the excruciating pain of desperately searching for loved ones is heartbreaking. The celebration of the human spirit is commendable and the sense of how people come together in a crisis, offering each other a shoulder to cry on, is inspirational. There are no good guys or bad guys; this is Mother Nature at its worst and the will to survive is strong.

The shortcomings are few; the wave breaking scene might have been a little exaggerated for the big screen and the near misses and hospital misunderstandings a little conventional and predictable. However, all of these small flaws don't have an overall affect on the outcome of the film.

The Impossible wouldn't be possible without its talented cast. McGregor has rarely been this good; his desperate and grief-stricken face is compelling and tear-jerking, while Watts’ general likeability shines as she digs deep for the role of Maria.

The star of this tragic and inspirational story is Holland with his marvellous portrayal of Lucas; a stubborn pre-teen who is being forced to grow up much too soon. Pulling the audience in, Holland's innocence and desire to survive is touching.

Just like its topic, The Impossible comes at us unexpectedly. It's a tormenting and inspirational story that plays as a powerful tribute to the thousands of souls lost on that tragic day.