Published Aug 12, 2010Sometimes it's nice to see a genre film with no higher ambition than to be a very entertaining genre film. The Disappearance of Alice Creed is a kidnapping thriller from the UK that's as suspenseful and involving as a kidnapping thriller should be.
Prior to its Toronto Film Festival premiere, festival director Cameron Bailey compared the film to Reservoir Dogs, but the comparison isn't fair. Alice Creed isn't a transcendent or revolutionary genre film like Dogs; it's just a really bloody good one.
The film's best scene is its opening, a virtuoso silent montage in which two kidnappers (Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan) slickly and efficiently kidnap Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton), the daughter of a wealthy businessman. They tie her to a bed, unemotionally explain the situation, allow her occasional meals and bathroom breaks, and otherwise wait patiently in the other room for her millionaire father to meet their demands.
For its first two thirds, The Disappearance of Alice Creed is completely engrossing: lightning-paced, tightly scripted, and with information about the three characters only gradually being revealed. Every action has a payoff, and the intensity of the understated, but tightly wound, performances give the impression of a good stage play. Marsan is particularly strong: his controlled, businesslike demeanour revealing occasionally glimpses of emotion beneath the surface. Compared to his breakout turn in Happy-Go-Lucky (2008), Marsan's work here couldn't be more different.
But writer/director J Blakeson (making his feature-length debut) lets the biggest twists come around the midpoint, and the last 30 minutes, in which the characters react to and deal with the surprising revelations, are a little anticlimactic. The last scene in particular goes just a few beats too long, considering how obvious it is by that point what the outcome will be. Still, the first two thirds of The Disappearance of Alice Creed are so strong that by this point we're so interested in these characters and their plights that it hardly matters. (Maple)