Shortly before Christmas in 1900, three lighthouse keepers disappeared from their remote Scottish outcrop. Were they swept out to sea? Killed by pirates? Savaged by unusually peckish seagulls? It’s a juicy starting point for any film; one that could be spun into a dreamlike mystery or a campfire horror or even (for subscribers to the seagull theory) a Hebridean take on ‘The Birds’. Instead, director Kristoffer Nyholm has twisted it into an enjoyably murky morality tale in the spirit of ‘Shallow Grave’. It’s melodramatic at times, but it pulses with psychological static and bursts of violence.
The ill-fated keepers are played by the ever-ace Peter Mullan as Thomas, the trio’s grieving leader, a dialled-down Gerard Butler as gruff family man James and Connor Swindells as Donald, the newcomer learning his trade. The weather is brutal, the landscape even more so, and inevitably the radio is on the blink. Into this mix comes a washed-up rowing boat, a body, a strong box and some really bad choices.
As you’d expect from a veteran of Scandi TV noir ‘The Killing’, Nyholm takes things dark.
The acting is solid, even if some of the character beats feel a little forced, especially from Butler’s fast-unravelling old hand. If nearly two hours feels like a lot of runtime for this story to fill, it’s crisply shot and never flags for long.