Published Oct 31, 2013Not every lost at sea story needs a gimmick on the scale of Life of Pi, but even a smaller film like Open Water had a distinct tone and an adversary more specific than the indifference of Mother Nature.
In a good drama, the chest-puffing bravado of men degenerating to a state of feral desperation as they struggle to hold onto a sliver of hope could easily be enough to keep a survival story compelling. However, The Disappeared lacks that strength of storytelling.
Confined to two lifeboats, six men from Newfoundland are adrift in the North Atlantic. Their situation is bleak, but to combat despair they hold fast to their duties as seamen. Initially the younger men are eager to follow the guidance of their Captain (go-to creepy authority figure Brian Downey), but as their hopes for salvation slowly erode tensions begin to flare between the frightened sailors.
The central conflict concerns Merv (Gary Levert), a highly religious man with a harsh hand when it comes to his son, Dickie (Neil Matheson), and Pete (Shawn Doyle, Big Love), a superstitious hothead who hypocritically mocks Merv's faith and sees his unhealthy relationship with his father in Merv's demoralizing, "tough love" approach to parenting.
Between intimate shots of banter, in which we get to know a little about these rugged men — mostly about how much they want to live to get laid another day — are dreary, poorly framed scenes of their futile attempts to retain a sense of sanity by keeping occupied.
Inevitably there are a few close brushes with salvation to manufacture a sense of dramatic momentum when Shandi Mitchell's script runs out of things to say. And what's a survival story without the morally murky question of what to do with a dying man when rations are running low?
How different personality types reconcile their value structures in the face of oblivion is always a worthy topic of exploration, but here it's not quite enough give the film the spark it needs.
The cast, which also includes Billy Campbell (The Rocketeer) and Ryan Doucette (Charlie Zone), do their best to provide enough gravitas and vulnerability to keep things interesting, but ultimately their efforts are sunk by Mitchell's direction, which is as aimless as these men's attempts to row to safety. (Two Dories)