The Vanishing: A truly harrowing, dark suspense story filled with excellent performances and a strong sense of brutality.
Bringing an intensely dark tone, The Vanishing is an excellently crafted suspense/thriller full of great performances and a sense of physically and mental brutality.
Based on a true story, the film follows a trio of lighthouse keepers (Gerard Butler, Peter Mullan, Connor Swindells) that stumble across a chest full of gold. However, while they are overjoyed at first glance, this discovery soon leads to the destruction of the men’s sense morality. To make matters worse, a small group of thieves also visits them to reclaim their gold and it all leads to paranoia and greed consuming the men.
Fans of Butler will get to see a bit of a different side of him in The Vanishing as his performance is truly haunting and emotionally gripping. The same can be said for Mullan and Swindells performances as well as they slowly begin to lose their morality after they are forced to kill in order to survive. Once things don’t go as according to plan, the film captures the dread and misery these men are feeling with a dark and dreary tone. Butler especially captures his character, James’, slow descent into misery and despair with pure eeriness.
The film’s atmosphere also carries a dark and gritty tone with some scenes that truly show how greed has truly consumed them. Throughout the film, it almost feels as if there is no sense of daylight that can brighten the mood and give any sort of good feelings towards these men. There’s also a lack of score and more use of ambient sound of waves crashing and seagulls squawking that sets in more feelings of loneliness. Director Kristoffer Nyholm also does an excellent job creating suspense and mystery through camera movement. There are moments where the men think they are having a conversation by themselves only for the camera to go behind a window to show that they aren’t alone at all.
While all the fine touches brought from Nyholm’s direction really add to the film’s suspense, Nyholm also brings a sense of mental and physical brutality. The physical brutality of these lighthouse keepers comes into the film a little later, but definitely leaves a strong impact. Seeing them have to fend off the thieves is incredibly brutal and what Swindells’ Donald does to a thief’s’ head is straight out of a horror movie. There’s also a slow mental descent that plays differently with each of the men and that makes their story so disturbing to see.
It’s all slow-building too and never rushes itself to get to its haunting conclusion. It takes time for audiences to understand the motivations and personalities of each of the men and when things suddenly take a turn for the worse, we get to see how they react towards the situation as well as each other. They are definitely a little tough to root for at times with their desire to keep everything that happened at secret and to even leave one another behind at times, but that could have been what Nyholm was going for.
The Vanishing’s dark and depressing tones aren’t necessarily going to be for everyone, but that doesn’t take away from a film that feels authentically suspenseful. Butler brings his “A-game” here and everything is rounded out by excellent performances from Mullen and Swindells. If you’re looking for a well-made, suspenseful, and dark film based on true story, The Vanishing delivers.