The Disappearance of Alice Creed Review: Kidnap Your Senses
Two men are industriously adding foam padding to an apartment’s walls and fixing down furniture. A room is sound-proofed, bolted and secured. Similar preparations are made to the interior of a non-descript white van into which a faceless girl is swiftly bundled.
After being thrown unsympathetically into this film’s plot, we watch as issues of power, love and trust are cleverly interchanged and thoroughly questioned throughout a turbulent and mostly gripping kidnap thriller. With no score or dialogue for the first ten minutes, we watch proceedings in silent curiosity and cannot help but be intrigued by this film.
Danny and Vic are two ex-cons who have hatched a plan to extract £2 million from the father of a rich girl. Their hostage is Alice Creed, daughter of a rich businessman, who will be the vehicle through which to secure the money. She is chained to a bed and preparations are made for an exchange. Everything seems on course, but for the twitchy nervousness of Danny.
Although the roles seem set, with Vic the more dominant captor, to the subservient Danny and the terrified Alice, we soon get huge revelations which cause us to question everyone’s motives. The walls of allegiances and assumed trust are smashed down as unexpected connections and back story emerge from the screaming and handcuffs.
The Disappearamnce of Alice Creed intelligently makes us question the notion of power and explores the psychological strains in different relationship structures. The isolated mise en scene and skeleton cast make for a well conceived atmosphere. However, where the film is let down is the script. With so little action, what the characters say is magnified and the sometimes flakey results don’t match up to the good acting and solid narrative. Mirth is sometimes the reaction from the audience where gravity is the intended effect.
Additionally, I feel that Alice Creed thinks it is grittier and more realistic than it is. If you take other captive thrillers, like Funny Games, it achieves a real misery and claustrophobia that Alice Creed doesn’t. Although the revelations that form the basis of the switch of power and role adoption are the latter’s strongest point, at the same time the film relies too heavily on twists and turns. The ending, for example, would have benefitted from a being slightly simpler.
Gemma Arterton is fantastically convincing in the central role, and Danny and Vic are played well by Martin Compston and Eddie Marsden. Overall, this is an intelligent first film from J Blakeson with a compelling plot. Good plot ideas and interesting shift of character dominance, however, are not backed up with the solid script and bleakness it deserves. A bit of an opportunity missed for a clearly talented young director.