Anchor Bay // 2009 // 100 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // November 23rd, 2010
"Wake up Miss Creed; it's breakfast time!"
"You've not only killed yourself, but you killed her too."
Two ex-cons, Vic (Eddie Marsan, Gangster No. 1) and Danny (Martin Compston), kidnap Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton, Quantum of Solace) and keep her chained up in their makeshift prison. The plan: to extort money from Alice's wealthy father. Brutally efficient and apparently lacking emotion, the kidnappers appear to have everything under control. But Alice has no intentions of playing the helpless victim, while tensions between the kidnapper's, and the motivations behind the kidnapping itself threatens to derail the entire plan.
Two guys, one girl, one room. It probably sounds more like the kind of setup you'd find in one of those movies you pretend to not have, but secretly have hordes of located in a folder on your computer you pray your partner doesn't find. But unlike that risqué material, The Disappearance of Alice Creed is a tense thriller that uses its single location to create a palpable sense of claustrophobia, and to suggest little escape for the imprisoned Alice.
Director J Blakeson, who also wrote the screenplay, reveals himself as a talent to keep an eye out for, as he masterfully tells a story full of the kinds of twists and turns that few seasoned directors -- let alone one working on his debut feature -- could muster. The montage that opens the film, and sees Danny and Vic turning their apartment into a soundproofed cell in anticipation of the kidnapping of Alice, is flawless. As is the cruel, and uncomfortable sequence where Alice is stripped, tied down, and photographed by her assailants. Silent, for the most part, Blakeson uses the film's opening act to set his stall out and confirm, for those who weren't sure, that Alice Creed is a film with balls. And while much of the opening 20-minutes or so are sparse on dialogue and plot, the film takes an interesting development on the half-hour mark that few will see coming, and ensures the film has the audiences undivided attention-that is until another development thrown in only 15-minutes later sheds a whole new light on proceedings which should see most viewers position themselves right on the edge of their seats, anticipating the next gripping revelation. By the time the film reaches the hour mark, you'll be hard pressed to distinguish who has the upper hand. With the plot bringing to light new revelation on a frequent basis, Blakeson does well to ensure the film keeps its momentum without being derailed as the story continues to reveal hidden depths.
Often films set in one location have the feel of a play about them, but Blakeson makes certain Alice Creed feels right at home on the big (or small) screen. Obvious, and deserved comparisons will be made to the work of Hitchcock-more precisely Rope, which is clearly a major influence on the director; though it's important to point out that Blakeson infuses his film with a modern, gritty style that explores similar themes to Hithchock's classic; some, which Rope only insinuated towards, in a more open manner.
The cast matches Blakeson stride for stride. Marsan, who is fast becoming one of the most interesting actors working in film today, delivers a performance that is dominated by a ferocity that makes Vic a terrifying monster, yet makes the most of small moments to reveal another side of Vic that grants the character a depth that a lesser film or actor would miss entirely. Playing Vic's sidekick, Danny, is Martin Compston who very nearly gives the more experienced Marsan a run for his money. The role of Danny is perhaps the most pivotal in the film, and Compston's reading of the role acknowledges that fact-the actor growing in stature as the role becomes more demanding. Gemma Arterton, normally associated with roles that call upon her natural beauty, is given a role that strips away all glamour, and allows Arterton to confirm herself as a talented actress who lends a believability to Alice's gritty determination.
The 2.40:1 anamorphic transfer is excellent. The image is razor sharp, with deep black levels and excellent color reproduction. There's really little to criticize here, with no visible flaws present. The 5.1 soundtrack is a similar story, with dialogue clear at all times.
Writer/Director J. Blakeson kicks off the supplemental materials with a commentary track. The commentary really reflects the enthusiasm the director has for this project, and makes for a great listen. Backing the commentary up are deleted and extended scenes, a set of outtakes and a storyboard comparison.
With all the twists and turns going on, it's commendable that Blakeson manages to keep things so believable-right up until the final act where one particular twist feels a little forced. It's not necessarily a bad decision in terms of keeping the narrative flowing, but whereas the rest of the developments felt organic, this one in particular feels a little too clever for its own good.
Tense, gripping, and smart, The Disappearance of Alice Creed is a return to the days of real thrillers. While perhaps lacking in originality, it makes a refreshing break from the norm and comes highly recommended.
Review content copyright © 2010 Paul Pritchard; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site