Review: 'The Vanishing' lingers long after it ends

Posted March 05,2019 - 02:42 PM

They say that the best films are the ones that make you want to talk about them as soon as the credits roll. By this measure, The Vanishing is a very fine film because when it ended, my wife and I couldn't shake what we had seen. Almost a week later, I'm still thinking about the events in the movie.

Based on a true event from a remote Scottish isle in 1900, The Vanishing plays on the unknown to craft a spooky mystery tale that delivers the goods. People love trying to figure out unsolved mysteries. Heck, there was a highly successful TV series dedicated to them and to this day, we are still trying to give a plausible explanation to any number of unexplained occurrences.

Whether it's searching for gold at Oak Island or trying to figure out whatever happened to D.B. Cooper, the unknown provides a fertile launching point for a good yarn. The Vanishing starts with the real disappearance of three lightkeepers on the remote Scottish Flannan Isles. In late 1900, three lightkeepers went missing and there hasn't been a trace of them since and there weren't any real clues as to what befell these hearty men.

The Vanishing attempts to flesh out the details of their disappearance by speculating that three men found a chest full of gold washed up on their isle. Naturally, a missing box of gold would have people searching for it and the result is one explanation of the lightkeepers' fates.



The true events aside, the story spun in The Vanishing is a morality tale as old as time itself. What would you do if you found a big stash of cash and a good chance of getting away with it if you simply kept your mouth shut? Of course, one of two things usually happens, either someone opens their mouth or someone else comes looking for the missing money.

In The Vanishing, it's the latter and the film is so well done that it really gave me vibes of A Simple Plan, which is one of my favorite movies ever made in this genre. Much like its predecessor, there's more going on than one might suspect. Not only are there people looking for the money, but the three lightkeepers are simultaneously struggling with the moral dilemma of their choices. As the film progresses, the events spiral out of control resulting in the true unsolved mystery that we have over a hundred years later.

For a film like this to work, the casting choices have to be superb. The three lightkeepers represent three separate generations of the trade and there's a bit of interplay between them that is probably even truer today. Imagine for a minute if a millennial, a gen-Xer and a baby boomer were in a similar situation today, how they would react.

Gerard Butler is superb as the middle-aged lightkeeper while Peter Mullan continues to be an actor that leaves a more lasting impression with each thing that I see him in. Newcomer (at least to me) Connor Swindells plays the lightkeeper trainee and his green demeanor perfectly captures the mood of the events that play out.

The Vanishing is a film that gives one possible explanation for the missing lightkeepers, but it's the acting and the excellent filmmaking that will make the biggest impression. If you like slow-burners or true story mysteries, you will be hard-pressed to find a better movie this year. If, like me, you appreciate the unheralded greatness that is A Simple Plan, then you'll definitely want to check out The Vanishing.

The Vanishing is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.