Kristoffer Nyholm’s The Vanishing is an intense, bleak and surprisingly engaging thriller which sees Gerard Butler back to his Scottish roots in a story based on real life events. Written by Joe Bone and Celyn Jones and partly produced by Butler himself, the film which also stars Peter Mullan and Connor Swindells centres around the infamous disappearance of the Flannan Isle keepers in the early 1900s and the mystery which remains unresolved to this day.
Arriving on an isolated Island off the Scottish coast, seasoned lighthouse keepers James Ducat (Butler) and Thomas Marshall (Mullan) are accompanied by eager young recruit Donald McArthurfor (Swindells ). Soon the three fall into a routine of getting things done despite being completely out of touch with the mainland. To make matters worse, the only radio on the premises has been broken for some time, making it impossible to communicate with anyone but each other.
One morning after a particularly stormy night, the three awaken to discover a boat, a body, and a wooden chest washed up on the shore. Donald descends the cliffs to check on the man, who at first glance appears to be dead. However while James and Thomas are busy hauling up the chest, the man awakens and attacks Donald. In the heat of the moment, a tragedy occurs which leaves one man dead and 3 others traumatised and wondering what could be in the chest that would lead someone to take so many risks to get it back.
The Vanishing might not present an entirely new idea, but where it lacks in originality it certainly makes up for it in its ability to keep you invested in the storyline from the get go. Nyholm presents a wonderfully atmospheric tale shrouded in mystery and suspense which is only slightly let down by a fairly pedestrian screenplay. And although the film never quite manages to measure up to its decidedly ambitious premise, it is still able to provide a huge amount of satisfaction and three truly impressive performances.
Gerard Butler puts in a respectable turn as a man tortured by his own actions, a performance which comes just at the right time to remind us that when given something more complicated to work with, the actor is still able to come up with the goods. For his part, Peter Mullan is as faultless as ever as the taciturn old grump who appears to be carrying more baggage than he is prepared to divulge.
Overall, The Vanishing may not be perfect in all aspects, but for a small budget affair the film is still able to convey a great deal of suspense and mystery throughout. A handsomely made, if a little flawed mystery thriller.