Should I Watch..? 'The Disappearance of Alice Creed'
What's the big deal?
The Disappearance Of Alice Creed is a low-budget thriller film produced in 2009 and is the debut feature film of director and writer J. Blakeson. The film focuses on the kidnap of a young woman by two ex-cons and the continual shift in power between them during her ordeal. Filming took place on the Isle Of Man and the budget was around $1.5 million, thanks to a cast list of just three actors - Gemma Arteton, Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan. The film was released to positive reviews from critics and made a splash at several film festivals but sadly failed to recoup its budget at the box office, possibly due to a minimal promotional campaign in order not to reveal any of the film's spoilers.
What's it about?
Two men, Victor and Danny who met each other in prison, calmly put into motion a chilling plan to kidnap a young heiress and ransom her for a big pay-off. After snatching the unfortunate Alice Creed, they take her to a remote location and lock her in a specially-constructed soundproof room before tying her to a bed. Gagged and stripped, Alice is helpless while her captors photograph her and send the pictures to her father. While Vic waits for the ransom to be paid, Danny is more uneasy with the situation now that the plan has become real.
As Alice's humiliation at the hands of her captors continues, Danny's resolve weakens further until he makes a critical error. As Alice decides to take matters into her own hands, Danny reveals his identity to her - a decision that has far-reaching consequences for all three of them. Will Vic and Danny get their hands on the money or will Alice prove more than they bargained for?
Release Date (UK)
30th April, 2010
What's to like?
I find that the best thrillers are the ones that you invest in as a viewer, those that grip you from the first shot and don't let go until the last. The Disappearance Of Alice Creed is one such film - there is a grim fascination in watching Vic and Danny assemble their sound-proof prison and prepare to execute their plan, although your mind races as to what other devious thoughts they might have in mind. The terror on Arteton's face is worryingly legitimate and makes the film feel genuine and haunting. You feel uneasy at the ordeal she goes through and the film doesn't shy away from detail.
Opposite the talented and brave performance from Arteton, Marsan and Compston make an intriguing duo. Neither men have received much attention from producers of blockbuster movies but both deliver performances of chilling efficiency. Marsan is actually superb as the ruthless Vic who quickly cottons on to the wool being pulled over his eyes. As a trio, the cast really push the material as far as it can go and makes the movie a tense and brutal thriller that revels in each twist and turn of the story.
- Arteton insisted on being chained to the bed even when filming stopped, in order to help her performance. She was, however, given a safe word to say if she felt too uncomfortable with the shoot.
- The whole film was shot in just four weeks on the Isle of Man and largely in chronological order. It was Marsan's third film shot on the island in the Irish Sea that year.
- A publicity campaign on Facebook was launched in order to decide the location of the film's theatrical premier. Southampton University's Student Union hosted the premier which took place on 20th April, 2010.
What's not to like?
Viewers used to stronger stuff than this - the sort of torture-porn that sprung up like fungi after Saw was released - will probably think this film to be a bit tame. There is no gore or extreme uses of violence although there's plenty of swearing. The film has a stripped-back, natural look that gives the story authenticity while Arteton's performance feels more real than I would care for. It eschews big budget set-pieces like a car chase, gun fights or explosions - it's a tense game of cat-and-mouse and personally, that's alright in my book. Most modern thrillers rely on expensive flim-flam but this settles for just being intense and creepy.
I did, however, feel that sometimes Blakeson was trying to eke out one twist too many from the material. The ending, which I won't divulge here, feels a little too hastily written and convenient for my liking and due to the film's minute cast, it also feels a bit stagey like an art-house play designed to shock its middle-class audience. Call me picky (I have to be sometimes!) but these are incredibly minor issues that are more likely due to personal taste than any fault of the film.
Should I watch it?
The Disappearance Of Alice Creed is another fine example of the sort of low-budget cinema that sticks to the brief and ticks all its boxes. It's not to everybody's taste but viewers will be rewarded by a gripping and intense thriller that plays with expectations and continually shifts its narrative. Stark and simple, the film works due to Arteton's remarkable performance and Marsan's villainous baddie.
Great For: thriller fans, Internet pervs, Arteton's credentials as a proper actress
Not So Great For: box office returns, the Isle Of Man
What else should I watch?
There are plenty of kidnap dramas out there but not many with the same punching power as The Disappearance Of Alice Creed on such a small budget. An example is the Liam Neeson action film Taken which has numerous scenes of violence, gun play, explosions and car chases but lacks the same authenticity that this movie provides. It's a brutal watch and entertaining in its own way, much like the Korean film Oldboy which tells the story of a man imprisoned by unknown captors for fifteen years before finally releasing him. It does for octopuses what Taken did for a Neeson monologue.
British crime films usually focus on the criminals instead of the cops, for whatever reason. Take something like Get Carter, a grim early Seventies effort with Michael Caine playing a gangland hitman going after his brother's killers or even the more recent Harry Brown which sees an elderly Caine become a gun-toting vigilante. A more comical twist can be found with two of Guy Ritchie's movies - Snatch is a convoluted tale about gypsy boxers and stolen diamonds while Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels remains Ritchie's best work, an endlessly quotable comic caper about four young men caught up with crime lords, stolen shotguns, countless bags of weed and an unconscious traffic warden.
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