Wednesday, June 16, 2010

British Cinema: The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2010)

The Disappearance of Alice Creed, 2010.

Written and Directed by J Blakeson.
Starring Gemma Arterton, Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed

Two guys kidnap Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton) and demand two million dollars from her father. However things aren’t quite what they seem and everything starts to fall apart.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed
In essence this is a fairly gimmicky film, a cast considering of three actors (Gemma Arterton, Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan) and only a few sets, mostly set in a small apartment. However this is a finely made and very well acted thriller, even if it does get a tad overblown by the end.

The opening sequence shows the two kidnappers preparing the room, which will hold their captive, in meticulous detail. The room is soundproofed, the bed bolted to the floor and chains bolted to the bed. They proceed to dig a hole in the woods, marking the area with a brightly coloured cloth attached to a nearby tree. Everything about this is fairly un-nerving, with no dialogue, showing the cold, clinical precision involved in the early stages of the kidnapping. It’s clear from the outset that these guys are professionals and have been planning this for quite some time.

The actual kidnapping is even more disturbing, as they pull her into the back of their van, gag her, pull a bag over her head and take her to the room. She is then tied up, stripped, photographed and forced to piss in a bottle. This is very uncomfortable viewing and surprisingly to see such a mainstream actress go from Bond Girl to a role where she isn’t afraid to look unattractive. Marsan and Compston may get the bulk of the dialogue and screen time but it’s Arterton who really impresses.

However the real key to the film’s brilliance is the directing of J Blakeson, which switches from horror to some fairly humorous moments such as Danny (Martin Compston) trying to flush a bullet casing down the toilet. The shift in tone doesn’t feel jarring but instead offers moments of light relief for what is a pretty unrelenting couple of hours. These moments are few and far between though and Blakeson’s ability to ratchet up the tension in a matter of seconds, and then build it up to breaking point is mesmerising.

The actors also rise up the challenge of the material superbly, Eddie Marsan switches between cold and calculated to outright panic brilliantly and his double act with Compston is both believable and surprising in its development. Arterton also brings so much more to the role than helpless victim, supported by a script which gives her a lot more to do that you would expect, and proving more than capable of portraying the shifts in her character.

There is the odd occasion where the script gets overly fussy and starts to lay on twist after twist, most of which are fairly easy to predict, but the quality of the direction and the acting rise above it and produce a finely crafted thriller. It may be a film to admire rather than love but it is quality filmmaking nonetheless.

David Bishop

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