Review: The Disappearance of Alice Creed

So with the chemical cocktail of whatever local anesthetic they use for dental work still coursing through my veins, I will now attempt to write some coherent film related sentences and then place them roughly in the right places. That stuff really does weird stuff to my head, never the most orderly place to begin with!

The Disappearance of Alice Creed is a taut, lean thriller starring Gemma Arterton, the incomparable Eddie Marsden and Martin Compston. You should bear in mind that it can be a pretty brutal ride in parts, if lacking the sustained overt violence of some films. It also has one of the best opening set ups I’ve seen in quite a while. Dialogue can be overrated sometimes.

The story line is tightly focused around the kidnap of the eponymous Alice Creed and the resultant fallout. The film doesn’t shy away from what a nasty, degrading business kidnap is and for this it should be commended. I can’t comment too much on what follows plotwise without compromising the many twists the film throws our way.  As a low budget thriller, you pretty much expect impressively acrobatic leaps and fast paced character development. As always the trick is guessing where they will fall and hoping they mesh organically into the narrative.

Simply put, most of these dramatic contrivances work on a basic level, but some don’t. Together they push the credibility boundary a little too far on occasion and you end up with the feel of a thought experiment writ large playing out before your eyes. Much like the excellent (and better) Hard Candy (incidentally my curveball choice along with Casablanca and Once for Valentine’s viewing), which you could never take at face value, but suffered less from this altered reality approach. Alice Creed also glosses over a few things, the final execution of the kidnap plot’s end stages for example seems to be lacking the fastidious preparation of the earlier sections and frankly seem a bit half arsed.

So maybe not a true to life thriller or textbook exercise in logic, it plays fast and loose with reality a little too much for that, but an interesting cinematic experience nevertheless. I knew one of the major plot points going into the movie and I think it would have been a better experience going in fresh and in a state of constant suspension.

The film does score highly for the acting on show, essential given the pared down cast, with Eddie Marsden winning the acting crown hands down with his unshowy performance as the grizzled ex-con Vic. The film feels almost theatrical in tone in places given its claustrophobic setting and unremitting focus on the three leads. You could see this story working well on the stage with minimal adaption and that’s a compliment as far as I’m concerned.

A well directed first feature outing for J Blakeson, the story benefits from his dynamic, cut down style that flows well from beginning to well executed finale. The middle section is where maybe where the film loses its way slightly with maybe one too many plot holes and turns for its own good.

Finally the well scored ‘action’ sequences (mainly carried out at walking pace!) that bookend the film deserve a favourable mention. In fact the use of sound is pretty much spot on throughout without ever taking centre stage.

Despite missing a few beats here and there, The Disappearance of Alice Creed is well worth checking out for some low budget British crime fare that ain’t all about the geezers and cockney wideboys.

Rating 71/100

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~ by Jack on May 19, 2011.

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