I didn’t like The Disappeared, but I can at least compliment its opening shots. Director Shandi Mitchell quickly establishes the nothingness that exists around a crew of lost men at sea. Mitchell generates an instantaneous sense of fear and hopelessness as the vagueness in their whereabouts and time of day effects the audience greatly.
Then, someone speaks. And, more people speak. It’s not so much speaking as it is projecting and emphasizing that these six men are rugged and have spent a long time out on the water.
This is the type of movie where the would-be chemistry feels too forced. The frightening naturalistic elements are belittled against performances that often remind us that these are actors laying on a shore man’s mentality and vernacular incredibly thick. Relationships try to establish themselves in Mitchell’s direction and her self-written screenplay, but the fake rollicking and squaring off drowns out any authenticity that could survive on this sea bound quest for survival.
From there, The Disappeared goes through the tiresome motions of a movie featuring a group of buddies and co-workers who eventually begin buckling under the gruelling conditions – all of which include mirages, a worsening injury, and short tempers. Even the film’s title is a bit of a shrug, asking the audience,”did you expect anything else?”
A couple of months ago, I reviewed an independent drama called La Pirogue which was based on a true story about a similar stranded situation. While in the same vein but not based on a direct true story, The Disappeared swings the pendulum the other way. La Pirogue was underacted, The Disappeared is overacted.
With these independent films, it seems the productions seem to be dropping the ball with the casting. I wouldn’t go as far to say the actors in The Disappeared are bad. I’m sure the Canadian on-screen talent would impress in a theatrical production in Stratford, Ontario. But here, the cast are incapable of delivering the authenticity of a life-and-death situation such as the one represented in the film – despite plopping these men in the middle of the water.
I write this review having not seen more mainstream fare that take place at sea – like, Captain Phillips and All Is Lost. Even though the leads are recognizable, perhaps it takes someone with a wide range like Tom Hanks or Robert Redford to tackle such material. Because, as it stands now with A Hijacking being the lone exception, smaller movies like La Pirogue and The Disappeared seem to be striking out.
I’ll keep on waiting for that next little-film-that-could to come around from out of the sea and wow me. For now, I have no choice but to throw The Disappeared back with the fishes.