The Disappearance of Alice Creed
Directed by J. Blakeson
Review by Thomas W. Campbell
Link to original review at the National Board of Review
The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2010) is a low budget exercise in minimalism that hangs its quirkiness on a mysterious kidnapping. It is the first feature film written and directed by J. Blakeson, and was shot on Isle of Man in Great Britain by Philipp Blaubach (The Escapist).
The story, which opens as a mystery then settles into a creepy and suspenseful thriller, is completely restricted to the lives of three people: Vic, the head kidnapper (Eddie Marsan), Danny, the second kidnapper (Martin Compston), and Alice, the victim (Gemma Arterton). Tension builds as secrets are revealed that ramp up the danger–turning an “ordinary” abduction into a continuously evolving series of confrontations.
The roots of the film are obviously in the theater–with only three characters and at least 80 percent of the action taking place in an apartment. The simplicity of the film’s style, though, becomes its greatest strength. There are no elaborate camera movements–it is shot in a matter-of-fact way that lets the acting take precedence. The film’s stylistic control mirrors the attempts by each of the characters to stay in command of their feelings even as their careful plans fall apart. Blakeson pulls it off in a way that makes the story work on an emotional level with only a few locations and no special effects. Like the films and theater of David Mamet, Blakeson uses an almost abstract way of portraying the competitiveness and frustration of the male species through elliptical and repetitive dialogue. We are made to wonder from the beginning what exactly is going on and who are these odd men who act with such precision, calculation and undefined rage bubbling so close to the surface.