Monday, April 4, 2011

The Disappearance of Alice Creed: Why Can't Americans Make A Thriller Like This?

A random pick on Netflix turns out to be a surprisingly good thriller.

Written and directed by J. Blakeson, The Disappearance of Alice Creed is a taut, clever little British film that is full of twists and turns; tight as a drum and impressive as hell.

With a cast of just three actors and absolutely no extras whatsoever, it begins with a wordless segment showing two men gathering provisions and making arrangements that eventually demonstrate that they are planning something underhanded.  Danny (Martin Compston, very clearly the Scottish Edward Norton) and Vic (Eddie Marsan) are lining up implements of restraint and readying weapons, boarding up the windows of an empty apartment, buying and installing soundproofing on the walls of said apartment, and securing a van.

These overly meticulous preparations lead to a kidnapping that goes off without a hitch.  (In other words, no one sees two men dragging a restrained woman up into a building and up several flights of stairs...but just hold that suspended disbelief a moment, okay?)

Once back at the apartment, the two men handcuff Alice (Gemma Arterton, a.k.a. Bond Girl Strawberry Fields) to a bed and go about stripping her of all her clothing, putting a ball gag in her mouth, and taking pictures of her for proof of the abduction.  A ransom of 2 million is subsequently asked for of Alice's wealthy father.  When the two thugs think they don't have the attention of Alice's rich daddy, they scare the shit out of her by holding a knife to her throat and making her beg for her life on a video intended for her pops.

It is here where the twists begin.  When Vic leaves to tend to some kidnapping business and Danny is alone in the bedroom with Alice, a series of events reveals that Danny and Alice are actually in a relationship and have been for quite some time.

Alice and her father are currently estranged after he cut out her inheritance, and Danny had the bright idea that perhaps kidnapping her then taking the money for themselves would be a walk in the park.  Oh yeah, Danny is an ex-con, and met his partner Vic while in prison. (No wonder Daddy Warbucks isn't keen on his daughter if she's rolling in the hay with a common criminal...)

As good an idea as it sounds in concept, Alice was completely unaware of the plan and not in on the bogus kidnapping, so she's pretty damned pissed at Danny.  At first.  But she promptly agrees to go along with the plan when the hear Vic knocking on the apartment door, waiting to be left in.  Realizing Vic would kill both of them if he was alerted of the deception, they continue on with the charade.

But no! We're not done.  More twists abound.  Ratting them out would be unfair to those who plan to see the film - and it deserves to be seen!  But suffice it to say I was impressed by the layers of deceit and double-crossing that were presented here.

And for a film to have just three members to the cast - seriously, I don't think I even saw one other person for the entire one hundred minutes.  Each cast member carries their own weight, but to me, Compston was quite compelling as Danny.  Seemingly stuck between loyalties to his girlfriend and his co-conspirator in crime, he gives an affecting performance and is so believable that it's hard not to sympathize with him.  Nearly as impressive is Arterton who plays, with relish, the role of the victim who's not quite ready to call it a day.

All I can say is that once you think you have it figured out, the page turns yet again and you're back at square one.  Boasting a snug script low on melodramatics, Disappearance has superior acting, the element of surprise, and an unpredictable ending - all the tricks of the trade.
And for those of you who aren't as interested in a fluent film or good acting, there are guns and boobs.  What more do you want?


Budd said...

as Gemma may be one of the most beautiful actresses in the world right now, this one might be worth a watch. It sound good to boot.

William Malmborg said...

Sounds pretty interesting. I will have to check it out. I love movies and stories like this. Thanks for posting about it.

The Mike said...

Oooh, I dug this one much as well. Just a fun little twister, plus the character's relationship stuff gives it a little extra oomph. Good times.