Director: Kristoffer Nyholm
Writers: Joe Bone and Celyn Jones
Starring: Gerard Butler, Peter Mullan, Connor Swindells
Genre: Thriller / Drama
Three lighthouse keepers on a remote Scottish island discover a hidden trunk washed up on the shore, and paranoia and greed ensue, leading to an intense struggle for survival that will ultimately lead to their mysterious disappearance.
Normally a synopsis like that would be a big no-no as it does mention what happens at the very end, and therefore a whopping spoiler. However, in the case of The Vanishing, the fact that this film is based on a true story in which the three protagonists disappeared is made abundantly clear from the start, and this knowledge only serves to make what happens within the actual narrative all the more intriguing and engaging.
The film wants us to know from the very start that the three characters that we are about to spend 107 minutes with all disappeared in mysterious circumstances, and this allows the narrative to present its interpretation of the events that led to their disappearance, and the fact that we already know about their disappearance adds an extra sense of dread an intrigue to the narrative. This allows the narrative to focus on why the characters vanished without a trace and also explore its main themes and just create a very effective mood.
The Vanishing is a deeply cinematic film that takes advantage of its evocative setting to create a profoundly atmospheric experience that truly depicts the main character’s sense of isolation. The sound design, the cinematography and the music all combine to truly make the viewer feel that they are also alone on the island with these characters and experience all the dangers that it presents.
It is best to say as very little as possible about what happens within the actual plot, but what initially starts the plot is perhaps a little generic – accidentally killing a stranger who washes ashore with a chest filled with gold (that is not a spoiler). However, what follows is a superb cinematic examination of psychological tension and drama.
The performances are also superb; I have always been very quick to criticise Gerard Butler for not only the fact that he tends to turn up in terrible films, but he is also rather terrible in them and just shouts his way through the story. However, Butler delivers what I can only describe as a wonderful performance of extremely effective nuance and subtlety (two words I thought I would never use to describe a Gerard Butler performance), which makes his character truly intriguing. Likewise, Peter Mullan and Connor Swindells are also similarly excellent – all three characters are burdened by their own internal secrets and torments when they first step foot on the island, and this is depicted perfectly by the character’s expressions and body language. As The narrative develops, paranoia increases and tensions rise, the characters then fully reveal their own personal secrets, and this only adds to the intrigue and tension. The Vanishing is a film that will grip until the very end, even though not every question posed by the narrative receives a conclusive answer, but that is part of the point.
A Superb example of how to create genuine tension and atmosphere with a framed narrative; thanks to some exceptional performances and an effective use of all cinematic tools available, The Vanishing is a deeply gripping drama until its very final scene.