Run time: 101 MINS

Director: Kristoffer Nyholm

Cast: Gerard Butler, Peter Mullan, Connor Swindells, Gary Lewis, Søren Malling, Olafur Darri Olafsson

Synopsis: A tense, action-packed thriller based on true events. After three lighthouse keepers arrive for work on a remote Scottish isle, they make a fateful discovery: a wrecked rowboat–with a chest full of gold. As a mysterious boat heads toward the island, the three men make a choice that will change their lives forever, ensnaring them in a web of greed, paranoia, and murder.


Skandi director Kristoffer Nyholm [Taboo (TV 2017), The Killing (TV 2007-09), The Enfield Haunting (2015)], who has a record of stylish suspense work, turns his considerable talents to a mystery that has captured the imaginations of conspiracy theorists for more than a century. Just four days before Christmas 1900 three lighthouse keepers apparently vanished into thin air – Marie Celeste-style – from Scotland’s remote Flannan Isles lighthouse.

The Vanishing is an exceptionally well-made film, with a script by Joe Bone and Celyn Jones. The stark, craggily exposed beauty of the locations conjures up a mood of primal peril through Jørgen Johansson’s widescreen cinematography. The other technical and design choices – and especially composer Benjamin Wallfisch’s score – help to build up the eerie atmospherics.

In the acting stakes, Scotland’s own Peter Mullan (Thomas) and Gerard Butler (James) are in top form, ably supported by relative newcomer Connor Swindells (Donald), and a handful of familiar Skandi-noir faces.

The keepers’ personal demons are exposed on the isolated, uninhabited island, off the rugged Scottish coast, as they work through their six week shift. After a fateful discovery drives a wedge between them, there follows a tense battle for survival as personal greed replaces loyalty – and fed by isolation and paranoia, three honest men are led down a path of destruction.

This tense thriller is based on true events – the unexplained vanishing of the three Flannan Isle lighthouse keepers in December 1900. The disappearance is the subject of the 1912 poem, ‘Flannan Isle’ by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson (1878-1962). Built in 1899, the lighthouse still stands in the Atlantic, twenty miles west of the Scottish Isle of Lewis. Part of the poem is quoted in the Doctor Who episode ‘Horror of Fang Rock’. It is also the inspiration for Hector Zazou’s song ‘Lighthouse’ which was performed by Siouxsie on the compilation album Songs from the Cold Seas. The Genesis song ‘The Mystery of Flannan Isle Lighthouse’ and the opera The Lighthouse by Peter Maxwell Davies are also based on the incident.

The Vanishing was screened at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival.

Images courtesy of: LIONSGATE.