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My name: Brian Martin
The Vanishing is an American remake of the Franco-Dutch film Spoorloos. Both are about what happens to a young man whose girlfriend goes into a gas station for a beer and simply disappears. One is very good, the other is not. Take a look at the posters below and see if you can guess which is which.
Clearly, one movie is about a kidnapping and its dark and devastating effects. The other is about a good guy and a bad guy, and it can't seem to make up its mind which of them is more important.
Oddly, the same man, George Sluizer, directed them both. But if the remake is his commentary on American audiences -- that, ultimately, they lack subtlety and possess a slasher mentality -- then it is heartening to report not that the film was widely panned, but that those very audiences rejected it: the film lost nine million dollars.
And, though it isn't entirely bad, it deserved to.
I enjoyed some of the scenes at the beginning, when the bad guy (Jeff Bridges), a true sociopath, is rehearsing the kidnapping. There's another scene later, when the good guy (Kiefer Sutherland), after three years spent in a fruitless search for his girlfriend, pulls a clever ruse on his new girlfriend to continue his search without her knowing about it. But these are isolated scenes with very little to pull them together. In fact, by starting with the kidnapper, it's questionable whether it is the young man's obsession we should care about or the crazy man's crime.
In the end, it doesn't matter either way, because both get shoved out the window. It begins with the new girlfriend. In both versions, Sutherland's character is a man obsessed. Obsession, despite what you may have read or seen on the screen, isn't particularly conducive to a healthy relationship. In the original, the man's new girlfriend leaves him as a result. Here, she tells him she's a fighter, and that sets up the third act, which could have been pulled from any number of unbelievable horror movies (or thrillers, for that matter).
What should have been -- and was, in its original version -- an inexorable descent into darkness ends up here a typical action movie. For that sort of thing, though, you'd be infinitely better off with Breakdown, a movie released four years later with the same sort of premise, a woman who simply vanishes and the man who must find her. It is Spoorloos -- from an action movie perspective. The Vanishing is just spoor.