J Blakeson’s The Disappearance of Alice Creed is an exercise in simplicity. Three actors, one premise and a little bit of conflict goes a long way with this little film that could. While I won’t be offering a rave review here, credit is due for a certain level of restraint in remaining dedicated enough to refuse adding genre flourishes to cheapen the mood for the first 70 minutes of this film. Unfortunately, the film can’t sustain itself for the entire 98 minutes as it grows a bit tiresome and careless in the final moments.
The story opens with Danny (Martin Compston) and Vic (Eddie Marsan) collecting the necessary tools and supplies to prepare an apartment room for the kidnapping of the young daughter of a wealthy businessman, the titular Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton).
What’s needed to pull off such a task? Foam padding, plywood to blackout the windows, plastic wrap for the bed mattress and new locks for the door. Next? A van. Line it with plastic. More? Some duct tape, handcuffs, a hunting knife, ball gag and a gun. Put it in a bag. Change your clothes. Get the girl. After nearly eight wordless minutes the scene is set and The Disappearance of Alice Creed begins.
This opening is the best part of the film, which isn’t to say the rest of the film is poor, in fact it’s a realization this film isn’t interested in being just another abduction feature and it intends to use its small budget to its advantage. Blakeson, who also wrote the script, ups the stakes as small bits of information leak out over the next hour causing unexpected conflict between all three characters.
Gemma Arterton, to this point, has primarily been known for her throwaway roles in Hollywood blockbusters, such as Clash of the Titans and Prince of Persia. Here she finally gets to show some range, even if for the most part she’s got a ball gag in her mouth, muffling whatever she’s trying to say. Yet, I still remain skeptical when it comes to Arterton’s overall talents, that is unless a this isn’t a series of bound and gagged roles begin springing up.
Marsan turns in a typical solid performance and gives weight to a role that changes face as the story goes down unexpected paths. Compston, as the younger and more anxious of the two abductors, plays well opposite Marsan bringing a necessary balance to the two characters and making sure we aren’t just watching two heartless thugs.
In fact, the film’s greatest strength is the human aspect of the story. It plays to the old adage; we only hurt the ones we love. The film benefits from its reliance on human emotion, but it loses steam as the scenery rarely changes and the plot becomes a bit stagnant.
Over 70 minutes of the film’s running time is limited to the confines of the apartment, as it bounces between Alice tied up in the bedroom and kitchen table banter between Danny and Vic. Once the story does begin to take a turn Blakeson strays from the originality of the set up and falls into a more typical story of what evils men will do when large sums of money are involved.
The Disappearance of Alice Creed is a decent independent feature. The relative size and scope of the picture gives it a bit of added credibility, but it isn’t enough to say it rises above your typical genre fare. Blakeson shows some talent with this being his first directorial feature length film after most recently co-writing The Descent: Part 2. We may one day look back at this as the film that kick-started a notable career, but for now I’ll just say it’s a decent opening effort.