Movie Review: THE VANISHING - Film Created By Old True Story

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Movie Review: THE VANISHING -  Photo credit: imdb, edition by Amber255 via

There were so many versions on the mysterious disappearance of three lighthouse keepers on the island of Eileen Mor, ranging from the elements of nature and ending with the activity of the dead elves. Danish director Kristoffer Nyholm proposed an artistic interpretation of his version, and, it should be noted, the film is not bad.

The very skillful serial director Kristoffer Nyholm made an interpretation of British story, so if you are familiar with the atmosphere of Taboo or Danish The Killing, you will quickly understand what to expect from the aesthetics of his full-length debut film

The Vanishing manages to shock even as it fails to truly surprise, a movie that takes a worn situation and wrings fresh pain out of it as it reaches — over-reaches — to solve a mystery that is probably even more mysterious than whatever the screenwriter’s cooked up. 

Credit: rogersmovienation

THE VANISHING is an interesting, dark, mysterious, and scary story. A slow psychological thriller with elements of drama will appeal, of course, not to everyone, but some will get impressed by their realism and the acting's quality. For the famous Danish filmmaker Christopher Nyholm, this project is the so-called directorial debut in the big cinema. 

Nevertheless, surprises are definitely present here: the work that is not particularly friendly to viewing is not deprived of gloomy charm, intensity, and open interpretation. Let's watch!

Debut film THE VANISHING - Photo credit: twitter

The True Story and Plot

Some strangeness occurred in December 1900 on the Scottish islands of Flannan, where the lighthouse was opened a year earlier. For its work, there should be constantly three caretakers, and just at that time, service was carried by James Ducat (Gerard Butler), Thomas Marshall (Peter Mullan), and Donald MacArthur (Connor Swindells). 

 When the chief caretaker Joseph Moore arrived on December 26, he found that all the doors were securely locked, the beds were not touched, the clock's arrows stopped, the kitchen table was completely turned over, and his subordinates disappeared without a trace. Nothing pointed to the location of the disappeared caretakers. The last entry in the journal of observations dated December 15.

No one knows what really happened that time on the lighthouse, but, as is usually the case, theories, guesses, and conspiracies are coming on YouTube, and now this mystery has reached the feature movie.

What the story is shown in the movie? 

One day, after a storm, the lighthouse keepers find a wooden chest on the shore, inside of which there are several gold bars. Having decided to keep the gold for themselves, men, without knowing it, make a fatal mistake.


THE VANISHING, official trailer - Video credit: youtube

The Content 

Despite that the film is a little more than one and a half hours, during the viewing, there will be a feeling that the timing is all two hours, as the events develop very slowly and carefully. The authors with all the details tried to immerse the viewer into the atmosphere of that time and those people to show each character in all directions and bring them closer to the audience.

In the first 25 minutes of the narration will not occur anything significant at all within the framework of the specific actions of the characters, and only then will any changes and exacerbation in the plot begin.

But if in the second act Nyholm finally disperses the action and gives a good event dynamic, which adds suspense. In the third one, it focuses on the oppressive atmosphere, the gloomy psychologism of the characters, and the tragic inevitability. All the main dramaturgy will unfold after the 50th minute when the events will slowly repent to the limit, showing the viewer all the horror and realism of human essence.

Movie Review: THE VANISHING - Photo credit: movietrainer

Still, despite some features, it is a real commercial product for the mass audience. The story itself is good, informative and fascinating, but on the other hand, all the drama does not occur on the screen, but in the depths of one or another hero, where the main struggle is with oneself, with one’s fears, and dangerous desires.

The trouble is sneaking up to the lighthouse closer to the middle of the film, but already before that, a ripple of foreshadowing events will run through. It will start all the leakage of mercury, will continue with the appearance of dead gulls at the threshold, and will end in a fatal discovery - a mysterious chest and a dead man. The stranger, however, quickly comes to his senses, and he will be killed for real in the framework of self-defense

The chest is full of gold bars, immensely pleasing the soul and an empty pocket of ordinary laborers. But the freebie is punishable, and you have to pay for the find with your soul and blood.

The film based on real facts: THE VANISHING - Photo credit:

As soon as they found the gold, something worth watching started. There will be blood, greed, cruelty. And as it is clear from the film's description, there will be deaths. And here it is worth noting that the film is not in pursuit of gold, not the series of a bloody meat grinder or animal fear, no. All these are only prerequisites for the beginning of the psychological and impulsive drama that will unfold after.

We see how a person begins to identify himself after the murder, how he is changing, and that he feels becoming slowly insane. Constant tension that grows with every minute. Each of the characters perceives the incident in their own way and changes according to their personality. 

The second part of the film is a deeply philosophical drama, incorporating all aspects of the interpersonal conflict, the struggle with one's own self and the inevitable ending.

Heroes, in the end, are very different from themselves in the beginning and this is the very thriller positioned in the film. The psychological horror that comes to everyone on the island due to events for which no one was prepared.

Excellent transfer of emotions and philosophy, which smoothly merges with self-hatred. Yesterday, friends, and today everyone saw his final, makes his and only his decision. 

Thriller THE VANISHING review -  Photo credit:

As a spectator, I liked most of all that the picture is multifaceted, and each face was interesting in its own way, and each of them was given equal attention by the director. So, the elements of the thriller are indisputable, implemented excellently as well as the dramatic aspects. Hot plot's scenes after a measured beginning of the film seem to suddenly flare up and capture the attention, but the transition to the psychological part occurs gradually to better emphasize the revolution in the inner world of three men.

In the film, you can notice the repeated focusing of the camera lens on mercury puddles. This emphasizes that the lighthouse keepers are in direct contact with open mercury. And how mercury vapor affects the nervous system during prolonged contact has been known for a long time: nervousness, irritability, disappears attention's concentration,  comes apathy, fever, etc.

Indeed, some of these symptoms were superbly transmitted by performing actors. The director is a realist to the fullest, and I am among those who are impressed by just such a realistic approach than using the mystical colors for what happened.

Drama film THE VANISHING - Photo credit:

The Characters

Each character is different and beautiful in its own way. It was a pleasure to watch them. We will not see at the final film's stages the emotions we saw at the film's beginning because everything will change beyond recognition. During the film, there will be a major process of transformation of the characters, changes in their inner world and perception towards those around them.

The old wolf Thomas Marshall is the most experienced of them, hardened by time and life troubles, like coastal rocks.

James Ducat is responsible for the middle generation. He has a bear as it fits his profession, smokes a pipe but is a good father of a family.

Young Donald McArthur still lacks facial hair and scratches on his biography to claim the role of a harsh man, but time promises to compensate for everything. He is a typical youngster, a little nervous who did not see life in all colors, whose fear does not even disappear before his eyes. 

The madness caused by gold and greed, we have seen in other movies, but the film of Kristoffer Nyholm is still a little about something else. To spend almost half the time keeping on revealing the experiences of the characters is fully justified.

The film based on real facts: THE VANISHING  - Photo credit: bloglikes

The wary Thomas, who lost his wife, is in no hurry to rejoice at unexpected wealth and hesitates to make some decisions (no spoilers). An exemplary family man, James, is gradually losing his mind, while the young and nervous Donald plunges headlong into a hysterical shape.

They are like specially selected of different ages; each is interesting in its own way. Although it is difficult to say interesting about a person who is mostly silent. The characters are not very talkative, which is explained by their simple origin and the harsh life on the island. To live on this - you need certain features and patience, because the natural grayness of the sea, stones, poor vegetation is clearly just depressing and leads people into a state of slight despondency.

And here such happiness came - practically, Leprechaun’s pot of gold. I am figuratively expressed, but the basic idea, I believe, is clear. They found gold; there were bright plans for life. Together with gold, like a snowball, problems began to arise. And that did not surprise me.

The focus of what is happening is not on the adventures of the characters, but on how the possession of sudden wealth changes them, pushes on eerie acts, which, as it becomes clear from the plot, for others it is a real shock. 

To put it in an abstract way, absolutely anyone can become a murderer (almost), but his essence, as murderers, determines the attitude to his act.

Thriller film THE VANISHING - Photo credit: imgur

The Technical Side

As for the production, everything is simple and clear. The director did not invent anything new, but the picture is impressive, realism delights, and the atmosphere of everything that is happening is truly amazing. Despite all the advantages of the features of the thriller genre, this picture is more accented in the direction of the drama, so you should take into account that there will be not very many actions as such, but there is a large number of dialogues, reasoning and trying to understand yourself.

Technically, this is a perfect movie: from the fascinating landscapes of an island, enveloped on all sides by an indifferent ocean, to a pertinently bleached picture even in rare moments of sunny weather; from the beautifully conveyed hopelessness to the dramatic pictures.

The rebellious sea is certainly very beautifully conveyed; the incredible rocky landscapes reinforced the mystery and majesty of the lighthouse - a huge structure, on which a lot of lives depended in those days.

THE VANISHING captures the mood of a secluded Scottish island, completely cut off from the land by miles of steel ocean, leaden skies, and continuous winds. It is terribly uncomfortable here, so the caretakers have fun playing the violin and catching crabs.

The atmosphere in the film is gloomy, depressing, deserted. All the action takes place in a closed space.

The Light Will Bring You Home - THE VANISHING, Gerard Butler & Peter Mullan - Video credit: youtube

The Collective Work Of Actors 

The atmosphere of hopelessness and isolation was hardly so convincing, if not surprisingly accurate casting.

There could be no doubt in Peter Mullan; after all, he is a Cannes prize-winner and, in general, the iconic Scottish actor and director.

Tell me, how long have you did not watch a good movie with Gerard Butler? Not just another blockbuster with endless fights but a film from another category? Gerard Butler not only played one of the main roles in the British thriller THE VANISHING  but also produced it.

Gerard Butler, who lived in the roles of faceless fighters, finally played not half-heartedly, but with the soul given to the process: the further THE VANISHING moves toward the tragic finale, the more painful his character becomes. This role and image were perfect for the actor. His image of a simple man perfectly reflected in the events of the film. The viewer believes his every movement and words, so when viewing there is empathy to him. I can say that this role was the best Gerard Butler's role in recent times. Casting performed perfectly.

The young actor Connor Swindells adequately accompanies Mullan and Butler, and more is not required from him yet. 

Crime film THE VANISHING - Photo credit: 

On A Final Note

With obvious cinematic and acting successes, THE VANISHING still lacks something deeper in its core. This is not a very rushing thriller, which is unlikely to leave a mark on the history of the genre, primarily because of the secondary and simple script without a double bottom. It is impossible to drown in it fully, but you can only rampage a little in shallow water - not a full swim, but it also invigorates well.

It's just the story of unhappy people faced with the destructive influence of suddenly found wealth. Power and money are the true catalysts of human nature. If a person managed to pass them a test worthily, honestly, he is worth respect.

This psychological thriller is not endowed with an abundance of action or intriguing chases. There is something more here. The finale is not how the story actually ended; it is only one of the versions. 

The film is hard and cruel in some places. But hard not because of blood or violence, but because of violence to own conscience and mind. Sometimes it is much tougher to watch than a bloodbath.

THE VANISHING review - Photo credit:

In general, though the film is worthy of attention, not everyone will like it, so be careful when choosing to watch it or not. If the trailer impressed you, then watch calmly, but if you have doubts, it is better not to start. In any case, the pleasant watching to all.

There's just something about lighthouses that inspires good psychodrama.

Credit: latimes

My rating: 8.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 87/100
Metacritic: 64/100
Critics average: 44/100
IMDb: 6.4/10

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