Released in 1993 and directed by George Sluizer from a novel by Tim Krabbé, "The Vanishing" is a crime drama/mystery/horror about a man (Kiefer Sutherland) whose girlfriend goes missing during a trip in Washington State (Sandra Bullock) and he searches in vain for her for years. After he starts a relationship with a new girlfriend (Nancy Travis), the abductor (Jeff Bridges) finally contacts him. Will he find his former girlfriend?
This is the second time the director shot this same story; the first time was the 1988 Euro film of the same name. The stories are identical except for the final acts and the fact that this newer version has a better character/part for the new girlfriend (Travis). Both films are worth catching, but I prefer this one for reasons explained below. Fans of the first movie object to the changes, arguing that the producers of this version were pandering to North American tastes. While this may be true, it's also likely that the director didn't want to make the same exact movie. After all, we already have the first version, why make an exact duplicate with different actors and locations? Besides, what's wrong with appreciating BOTH versions? My comments below reveal why Sluizer wanted to change things up a little with this version.
Audiences may have rejected the film at the box office on the grounds that they weren't used to Bridges playing a contemptible villain or Sutherland playing the good guy, but they're both fine in these roles, particularly the former, who's great and fascinating to observe. One thing that keeps you watching during the drama of the first two acts is to find out what his motivations are. But, as hinted above, it's Travis who steals the show, at least as far as protagonists goes. Perhaps audiences didn't receive her or the movie well because her character's merely a waitress whose story arc doesn't end in a reversal of fortune, which is in contrast to the typical movie heroine. Who knows? I think she's awesome.
In any case, if you like psychological drama/thrillers like "Fatal Attraction" (1987) and "Single White Female" (1992) you'll appreciate "The Vanishing."
The movie runs 109 minutes and was shot mostly in Washington State, but also Cody Tunnel, Cody, Wyoming (the tunnel sequence) and La Canada and Long Beach, CA (the diner and pool hall scenes respectively).
***SPOILER ALERT*** (Don't read further unless you've watched the movie)
While the first film could be interpreted as a commentary on nihilism, since the villain wins and the hero loses, it doesn't HAVE to be interpreted this way. After all, it's a simple fact of life that sometimes evil wins a battle now and then; and sometimes A LOT of them, but this doesn't mean evil wins the war, so to speak. If there's ultimate good then evil will eventually have its day of reckoning.
In any event, the 1988 movie ends on a decidedly downbeat note. And this is why I appreciate this newer version: While it is also downbeat, and evil wins to a point, the changes in the final act show good triumphing over evil, not to mention perseverance over intellect and love over absence of love. The subtext is all about freewill – freewill to kill for no good reason and freewill to kill for good when absolutely necessary. The theme of the first movie is limited in that it drives home the first point whereas this version drives home both, and is the better for it.