Review: The Disappearance of Alice Creed

Posted: August 13, 2010 in Film Reviews
Tags: , , , , , ,

Gemma Arterton in The Disappearance of Alice CreedAs the movie entered its stride, the first question to come to mind was, “Is humiliating/abusing women on screen ‘in’ now?” Fortunately, the film’s direction does change to a less offensive, worthwhile watch early on.

On a suburban street, two masked men seize a young woman. They bind and gag her and take her to an abandoned, soundproofed apartment. She is Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton), daughter of a millionaire. Her kidnappers, the coldly efficient Vic (Eddie Marsan) and his younger accomplice Danny (Martin Compston), have worked out a meticulous plan. But Alice is not going to play the perfect victim and give in without a fight.

The opening sequence of the film is a great mood setter as the kidnappers silently and systematically go about buying supplies and building their soundproof cage. It’s somewhat reminiscent of a similar scene in 1992’s Deadbolt. The tension in the room rises as the detailed preparation is carried out, culminating in the screams of a young woman being taken. The scenes that follow are uncomfortable, but the purpose is understood (even if not approved).

The Disappearance of Alice Creed is a debut presentation from first-time feature writer/director J Blakeson and it’s quite good. He notes the initial premise came from a technique borrowed from Billy Wilder, in which the screenwriter expands on one moment from another film – Blakeson has borrowed his moment from Ron Howard’s Ransom.

Blakeson successfully uses the minimalist approach – simple plot, mostly one location and three characters – to do a lot with a little. Rather than show the scenes typical of a kidnapping film – frightened relatives, police wire taps and ransom exchanges – he focuses on the holding location, the captors caring for the victim and their interactions with each other. In the process, he inserts two major plot twists that affect the audiences’ views of the characters and the story itself. It is these nuances that combine to create an intriguing tale of struggles for power, deep betrayal and unexpected motives.

With only three actors to carry an entire picture, the casting has to be spot on and the performances must be top notch; they’ve managed to achieve both objectives here. Arterton hasn’t really portrayed a victim until now, instead toting screen credits as a Bond girl (Quantum of Solace), strong-willed princess (Prince of Persia: Sands of Time) and un-aging protector (Clash of the Titans). Nonetheless, her lack of experience in the area does not lend to a lack of ability. She appears genuinely scared throughout and determined as she tries to survive at all costs. Marsan tends to play serious fellows, but adds a healthy dose of mean and terrifying for this role. Compston is stellar as the younger, nervous villain constantly in fear that he’ll be found out.

The script is tight and well executed with evidence of a detailed vision in place and skilful performers to bring it to life.

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