Posted in Film

The Sandra Bullock Files #10: The Vanishing (1993)

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The Sandra Bullock Files is a series that looks at the films of Oscar-winning actress Sandra Bullock, all the way from her debut in 1987, to her two major 2018 releases, Ocean’s Eight and Bird Box.

It’s a third-rate version of the far more effective and chilling 1988 original, and she’s only in a handful of scenes, but this 1993 version of The Vanishing, directed by the same guy who made the first one (George Sluizer), was probably the most important movie Sandra appeared in at this point in her career.

You see, the casting director for The Vanishing was Risa Bramon Garcia, who would go on to cast a little movie called Speed. Does Sandra have Garcia to thank for making her a star? There’s rarely just one person who jumpstarts an actor’s successful career, but thanking Garcia would probably be a good place to start.

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The film opens with the villain Barney (a dopey Jeff Bridges) going through the motions of how to chloroform his first victim, which of course takes away most of the suspense of what’s to come. It is always creepier what we don’t see. What if Psycho opened with Norman Bates testing out different knives and wigs in his kitchen? The shower scene probably would have had about five percent of its power.

In the first scene away from Bridges, we find Sandra sitting in the passenger seat of a car, next to Kiefer Sutherland. They play Diane and Jeff, a couple who is going on what they hope to be a relaxing vacation. Unfortunately, their car breaks down in the middle of a dark tunnel and Jeff goes to get help, while Diane waits for him.

By minute seventeen, the couple is stopping at a gas station to fill up on gas and food. She makes him swear that he’ll never abandon her like that again, and we see that ultra-charming Sandra we’ve come to know and love. In particular a happy dance jig she does on the way to the food mart may be one of her cutest moments ever caught on film.

Sandra’s at her most adorable in the beginning of the movie, so of course it seems imminent that things aren’t going to end well for her. She quickly disappears, and we, the audience, know why — Bridges is seen briefly in the food mart before she walks into the bathroom.

The film then continues on as Sutherland does all he can to find her, to no avail. He strikes up a friendship with Rita, played by So I Married an Axe Murderer’s Nancy Travis. This section of the film is pretty bland, with an awkward romance blossoming between the two that feels far less natural than the romance that existed between Jeff and Diane. Sandra and Sutherland have more chemistry together (an element that heightened the tension between them in a much different scenario in A Time to Kill).

Finally, in the second half, we get a flashback to show what really happened to Diane. Barney bumps into her in front of the bathroom and starts making polite conversation with her. This scene is somewhat chilling due to the fact that we know she’s about to be attacked in the parking lot, but it’s also a highly memorable one because Bridges and Sandra went on seventeen years later to win Best Actor and Best Actress at the 2010 Oscars ceremony. Who knew they would go from a tense scene in a subpar thriller to dual wins of the highest honor at the Academy Awards?

After Diane is chloroformed, we never see her again, despite a disturbing moment at the end when Sutherland acknowledges her grave. We don’t want to think Sandra’s in there! Except for her brief turn in the TV mini-series Lucky Chances, this is the only film to date that Sandra’s character has perished in.

She’s not exactly the star of The Vanishing, but her presence is felt throughout, particularly when she’s missing for that middle lugubrious hour. The film is most notable for being her first collaboration with casting director Risa Bramon Garcia, as well as for being her biggest studio movie yet (the budget was $20 million).

And then there are those scenes with Bridges. Be sure to watch the video of Sandra accepting her Golden Globe for The Blind Side. Before she makes it to the main steps, Bridges stands up and gives Sandra a kiss on the cheek. Here’s hoping she wasn’t for a brief second expecting a napkin of chloroform.

Best Scene: Sandra makes awkward conversation with a creepy Jeff Bridges.

Best Line: When Sandra’s Chloroformed: “NOOOOOOOOO!”

Fun Facts

With a budget of $20 million, this US remake cost over ten million times what George Sluizer’s original Dutch version did in 1988.

In the original version, Jeff dies at the end, and Barney survives, without getting caught.

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