Sunday, January 15, 2023

The Vanishing

Movie Name:
The Vanishing
Year of Release: 2018
Director: Kristoffer Nyholm
Starring: Peter Mullan, Gerard Butler, Connor Swindells, Soren Malling, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Emma King, Gary Lewis, Ken Drury, Gary Kane
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review
After an extensive career directing various television shows and made for TV films, "The Vanishing" is Kristoffer Nyholm's feature directorial debut. It is based on an actual event which took place in 1900, where three lighthouse keepers mysteriously disappeared. The film adaptation written by Celyn Jones and Joe Bone (both with fairly extensive careers as performers, more so than as writers), focuses on the narrative of three men who are hired for a six-week shift on the remote Flannan Isles Lighthouse. Donald, the youngest is also the most inexperienced and is learning the trade from his colleagues, James and Thomas. The robust and strong James has a family whereas the slightly older Thomas is mourning the loss of his wife and children. As they all get settled, and following a particularly harsh storm, they discover that someone has washed ashore, alongside a wooden chest. When Donald descends from the cliff to go and help the individual, he spurts to life and viciously attacks him. Donal barely manages to survive, but kills the man in self-defense. While initially against checking what's in the chest, they eventually check it, and discover gold bars, which they all agree to split amongst each other. However, soon enough another boat shows up, with two men who identify themselves as crew mates of the man Donald killed. Thomas makes up a lie, and while there's some tension, the men leave, until they realize they've been had. When they return to the lighthouse, things quickly escalate. 
"The Vanishing" has the benefit of being a film where there's considerable restraint in what is staged (in the sense there's no hyperbolic violence for instance) and where the director focuses on illustrating the narrative by simultaneously leveraging his talented cast, but also the remoteness of the locale itself. There's almost a stage play/theater aspect to this narrative, where these three men living in isolation, and at different points in their lives, get to know each other slightly better, until an extraordinary event forces them to deal with both their survival instincts, but also brings to light their darker and greedier sides. It's a fairly competent film, in the sense that the director economically captures the distinction between these three main characters, even though the script itself doesn't provide much in terms of the journey in which they find themselves in (they're nearly much blank canvases before the events of the Lighthouse). The cast vividly brings the narrative to life, particularly the always stupendous Peter Mullan who is one of the most underrated British actors working these days, with solid support from Gerard Butler (always nice to see him in films that are not part of the sub-par roster he produces and releases almost on a yearly basis) and Connor Swindells (who is one of the revelations of the Netflix show, "Sex Education"). The cinematography from Jorgen Johansson is solid, as is the production design from Jacqueline Abrahams and costumes from Pam Downe. Worth watching.