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Movie Review: The Disappearance of Alice Creed

August 6, 2010
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The Disappearance of Alice Creed is a twisty, provocative British thriller featuring a breakout performance from Gemma Arterton. You may have caught her in the recent popcorn flicks Prince of Persia or Clash of the Titans, two movies in which she is largely relegated to arm candy for the leading men.

It is refreshing to see the sultry actress show us the  range of her acting prowess. As Alice Creed, she gives a gritty, brave performance  that you won’t soon forget.

The film begins with two men meticulously preparing a room to serve as a temporary housing for a kidnapping victim.  It seems that every tiny detail has been addressed.  The room is soundproofed and padded, the bed is bolted to the floor, and the room has been stripped bare of anything that could be used as weaponry.

The two men don masks and drive an outfitted van to their victim, a one Alice Creed.  Soon, she is shackled to the bed and stripped naked.  It’s a difficult scene to watch, and horribly degrading.

It would be very easy to write off the movie at this early juncture as being yet another torture-porn genre film, but don’t be so quick to judge.  That graphic and frightening scene sets up some interesting plot points for later, and makes better sense after you have the context  of the whole movie behind it.

Fortunately, it is quickly apparent that the men have no interest in Alice sexually.  They cloth her in a jogging suit they provide, and don’t seem to have much interest in actually harming her.  Instead, they want to extort some money from her wealthy father, by making him pay a kidnap ransom.

What they didn’t count on is the resourcefulness of their victim, and the movie plays out by letting us watch these three players engage in an enthralling game of mental chess.

Whenever we see large sums of money in movies it usually brings out the worst in people, and this movie is no exception.  In the tradition of psychological thrillers like Shallow Grave and A Simple Plan, everything goes deliriously wrong, and nothing is exactly as it seems.

That is all I will say about the plot. The less known about this film, the better.

Writer and director J Blakeson does a superb job utilizing just three actors and one main location.  It’s a pretty amazing feat to ratchet up the suspense and to provide such a dizzying array of twists with such an austere cast.

The acting is all top-notch.  As mentioned, Gemma is an exciting young actress to keep an eye on.

The two men are also well-cast.  The older (and presumably wiser) leader of the two is played by Eddie Marsan, who has appeared in multiple films playing bit character parts. He brings a bone-chilling sensibility to his character Vic, who must keep the plan on track, no matter the cost. Vic calls all the shots and seems to be the brains of the operation, as well as a twisted sort of father figure.

His younger, somewhat fumbling partner in crime is Danny (Martin Compston), who lacks composure and is completely freaked out by the whole venture. He is queasy and unsettled after the abduction, which raises red flags for Vic, who states, “If you are not hungry, then something is wrong.”   Danny  is the Achilles heel of the operation, and Vic knows it.

Vic’s constant suspicion of Danny and his motives drive a wedge between the two, and as the deadline for the money drop quickly approaches,  the tension is palpable.

This is director Blakeson’s first feature film.  He has previously directed a few shorts, but he shows great potential.  He coaxes amazing performances out of the three principals and uses the sparse set design to great advantage.

The characters (and their actions) are the focus of the film, which is a nice departure from most the films this summer. The Disappearance of Alice Creed zips by at 100 minutes, and this little British Indie is more satisfying than most blockbusters out there.

Rating 4/5

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