Gemma Arterton’s nearing the status of ‘ubiquitous’ at the moment. As if Clash of the Titans and Prince of Persia weren’t enough work, The Disappearance of Alice Creed is now the third film of hers released in the past few months. Not that I should complain, because Arterton is quite talented. The first two features, both belonging to the ‘CGI and sand’ genre, didn’t really leave room for her to prove this, but this flick actually has some gosh darn talent on show.
The Disappearance of Alice Creed opens as we follow two silent, nameless men preparing for a kidnapping. They soundproof the room that is to be the prison, they add all manner of locks to the doors, they prepare the van which will transport the victim. Then they wait. This is a great opening, and I’d stake money on the fact that writer/director J Blakeson is a Tom Tykwer fan, because everything about this sequence feels like it could have been done by my favourite director. Everything – the pacing, cinematography, the editing and the music – feels like Tykwer. This, of course, isn’t a bad thing, and the rest of the film doesn’t feel like so much homage, so one needn’t worry about any coattail riding.
It’s Alice Creed who’s been kidnapped, and Arterton plays this rather thankless role brilliantly. She is barely recognisable from her two most recent appearances I mentioned (and nothing like her bit part in Quantum of Solace) and I can only imagine that this must have been one of the most uncomfortable shoots in history, since she spends much of the film gagged and handcuffed to a bed, often naked.
The two kidnappers are played by Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan, and they are an interesting match for one another. These three characters all participate in a game of blind man’s bluff, and each of them has something to hide.
The problem is that the end result of The Disappearance of Alice Creed isn’t anywhere near as entertaining as it should be. Out of all the narrative twists, only one moment really surprises. A lot of the problem has to do with the script, which regularly requires a lot of faith on the part of the audience. Time and again, Blakeson asks us to believe a character would do something utterly against their nature, so that when they inevitably rescind, the audience isn’t at all surprised.
As a director, Blakeson is top notch. Much of the film is essentially combinations of the three people in one of two rooms, thus the attention is firmly set upon the three performers at all times, and they don’t disappoint. Compston and Marsan are particularly good, and its interesting to watch their dynamic shift as the narrative unfolds, whilst Arterton is quite frankly brilliant at being terrified, but even more convincing as a woman in control.
Considering this is a thriller in an enclosed space, The Disappearance of Alice Creed is a film that should have been right down my alley. Unfortunately, it fails to suspend disbelief at several of the most crucial narrative junctures, so in the end must be content with simply being a decent thriller.Rating: