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The Vanishing

In 1993, George Sluizer took a chance at revisiting his 1988 classic The Vanishing in an attempt to recreate the thriller for an American audience. The results are as predictable and formulaic as the original was daring and groundbreaking. In lieu of the original adaptation of Tim Krabbe's novel, written by Krabbe and Sluizer, Todd Graff was brought in to tailor the story to appeal as much to the big-name actors the studio was courting, as well as make the experience more palatable to stateside filmgoers. Jeff Bridges stars as Barney Cousins, an awkward man, full of nervous twitches and blank stares, but possessing a brilliant mind and a strong sense of family loyalty. For some reason, he is preparing to commit an atrocious act. Jeff Harriman (Kiefer Sutherland) and Diane Shaver (Sandra Bullock) are on a vacation in the northwest mountains, and while stopping to gas up at a back-country depot, Diane disappears. It is not until three years have passed that Jeff learns the identity of his lover's kidnapper, and the passage of time has not been kind to him. While he has managed to move on enough to fall in love with Rita (Nancy Travis, playing the no-nonsense, tough-waffle waitress with a heart of gold), he still searches for answers. It's apparent that his life will not be complete until he knows what happened to Diane, creating a weapon that Barney can use to once again visit his dark side. In revisiting The Vanishing, Sluizer has allowed the character of Barney has become the one-note face of a sociopath. The original's Raymond was a cold man, but with a presence that forced the audience into a certain respect of his intellect and reasoning. Bridges' Barney is the "quiet neighbor next door" who seemed nice enough, but in hindsight everyone could see it coming. The early revelation of the characters' intentions, which sets up Jeff to be the cipher the audience uses to determine the "why" and "what" of Diane's disappearance, loses its resonance when this is removed as the function of the narrative. While the simplification of Barney is the most damaging character-shift from the original, fleshing out the Rita character is merely a device to turn an art-house film into a blockbuster. Gone are the intellectual aspects of man's quest for knowledge at any cost — as well as accepting the consequences for his actions — reducing an almost perfect resolution into a by-the-numbers Hollywood thriller. Bereft of the original's subtext (the Criterion release remains fresh and potent), The Vanishing is a textbook example of a needless remake. Fox presents the film in an anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with a full-frame transfer also on board and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Trailer, keep-case.
—Scott Anderson

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