Cast: Gerard Butler, Peter Mullan, Olafur Darn Olafsson, Connor Swindells
Director: Kristoffer Nyholm
After Butler’s relatively underwhelming 2018, he has the opportunity to start this year off attaching himself to a project that while maybe won’t bring in the most revenue of all time, will show us that he’s still capable of providing a strong, dramatic performance in a leading role. Luckily, The Vanishing gives us just that with Butler and the rest of this ensemble showing what intense, claustrophobic performances can look like regardless of a film’s budget or release schedule. A true testament of human emotion, The Vanishing presents an interesting moral scenario and displays both the consequences and the rewards of certain decision making.
The film follows three lighthouse attendants, James (Butler), Thomas (Mullan), and Donald (Swindells), who are tasked with manning the Flannan Isle Lighthouse. When they come across a shipwrecked man and his trunk containing gold bars, the three go down a path they cannot turn back from and they must face the consequences of their actions. The two emotions that are primarily focused on in this film are greed and guilt, and the two have quite the relationship. These men are ultimately fueled primarily by greed and thinking mostly of what that gold can do to change their lives, but then they must live with the guilt of their actions. The actors who display these emotions the best are Butler and Swindells, who each show the various sides of how someone would react under these circumstances. Butler’s James handles his decision-making by going into isolation and getting angry at everything surrounding their environment, which emulates symptoms of PTSD and depression. Butler gives one of his best performances in years and the entire time he was on-screen, I legitimately believed he was going through the emotions he said he was going through. Through the look on his face, the way he spoke, and the body language he gave out, Butler goes from a normal guy just going about his work to someone whose life is changed forever and Butler is the sole reason we feel this way about his character. On the other hand, Swindells’ performance as Donald, the youngest member of their group, takes almost the opposite approach where he initially starts off showing similar symptoms as James, but slowly becomes more focused on survival and getting his cut of the gold. This is an interesting foil for James’ character and shows the different ways that an individual can interpret a difficult situation. Naturally, the two clash over their different viewpoints and experiences and show us just how individual responsibility plays a role in one’s downfall. While the performances are strong enough on their own, the fact that the story is unpredictable and keeps you enticed the whole time make The Vanishing and enjoyable and engaging home-movie experience. I believe there is an audience out there for this movie and while it may not be able to reach most, those that it does reach will be rewarded with an interesting and thought-provoking experience.
Overall, I had never used VUDU before watching this movie, I have to say this was worth the price of admission. I have always associated on-demand movies with low quality, but The Vanishing proves that just because a movie does not end up getting a theatrical release or purchased by Netflix doesn’t mean it has a lower level of quality. Regardless of the movies that Butler usually picks to be in, he still has an immense level of talent and can act in some special roles should he choose to. While the story might be a little dramatized from the mystery surrounding the real lighthouse, it’s still good enough to enjoy regardless of the movies that you typically enjoy watching.
Overall Score: 8/10