By Don Simpson | August 6, 2010
Director: J Blakeson
Writers: J Blakeson
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Martin Compston, Eddie Marsan
The Disappearance of Alice Creed opens with a beautifully crafted and wordless sequence as Vic (Eddie Marsan) and Danny (Martin Compston) steal a white minivan, visit a hardware store, fastidiously outfit a grimy one-bedroom flat with soundproofing and a few locks and latches, and line the inside of the minivan with plastic sheeting. Finally, a solitary word is uttered by Vic — “OK” — and they’re off to kidnap Alice (Gemma Arterton). Alice is promptly cuffed and tied to a bed, gagged and stripped bum naked. Photos are taken and a ransom request for $2 million pounds is presumably submitted to Alice’s wealthy father. From this point on, it’s a waiting game and a battle of the wits.
Under the minimalist direction of J Blakeson, the camera remains inside the flat until late in the film when its time for Vic and Danny to collect their bounty. Alice Creed is told from a single perspective — unlike most kidnapping flicks which bounce back and forth between the perspectives of the various parties involved — and the script is limited to the three characters. There are brilliantly realized plot twists and shocking reveals, some coming from so far out of left field that its difficult to hold back a few laughs or exclaim “touche!”; but no matter how outrageous, each and every frame of the narrative has a purpose and as a whole the plot makes pitch perfect sense. Alice Creed is way too much fun for unsuspecting viewers, so I prefer to remain silent on most of the details. (I will say that the bullet sequences are as clever and humorous as anything Hitchcock ever mustered.)
The taut and fluid story exudes adrenaline and is primed with exquisite elemental detail, yet J Blakeson’s script works all so much better in the masterful hands of its three actors (all of whom might never top their performance here). I’ve appreciated many of Marsan and Compston’s previous performances (especially Happy-Go-Lucky and Red Road, respectively), but coming off two horrendous Hollywood turds — Clash of the Titans and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time — Alice Creed is the first real opportunity for U.S. audiences’ to appreciate Arterton’s acting chops (and ogle her bare body).
Blakeson never opts for the exploitation angle (some critics are griping that Alice is tied to the bed naked, though only for a brief time) or succumb to a bit of the old ultra-violence as most modern day capers are prone to do. J Blakeson’s film is quite respectful of the intelligence of it’s audience. For those of you who enjoy well written caper films, Alice Creed should not be missed; as it is quite rare to experience a fictional caper film with facts that remain so firmly grounded in reality. Compared to the atrociously hacked together scripts of the Hollywood blockbusters being released this week (Step Up 3D, Middle Men, The Other Guys), Alice Creed looks like a cinematic masterpiece.