Right from the very beginning of The Disappearance of Alice Creed, I was thinking, “There’s no way this movie can be this good all the way through.” I hate when I’m right. For a first film, writer/director J Blakeson’s The Disappearance of Alice Creed is an impressive effort which shows off Blakeson’s considerable skill set, which includes an amazing handle on tension building, use of minimalist, yet fascinating, sets, and an unflinching delight in making the viewer feel uncomfortable.
Unfortunately, this delightful piece of gritty cinema takes an unwelcome turn to twist town, rendering that queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach completely impotent. The story gets in the way of the filmmaking, which is actually something of a rarity, and as I think about it, I can’t quite decide if this is a compliment or an insult.
The movie starts off in relative silence as two dudes get ready to pull off some sort of crime. They ditch their clothing, ready their holding cell, prepare their van, and head off to pick up their victim. Why do they want her? We don’t know… and this is the beauty of the beginning. J Blakeson forces a very realistic nightmare to unfold before the viewers eyes, and just when it reaches the point where you almost can’t bear to watch, he relents… eschewing silence for dialogue, eschewing questions for answers, and eschewing uncomfortable tension for an air of predictability.
J Blakeson quite simply lets up on the viewer, and in so doing, he loses the magic that he created. While you’ll still stick with the characters to watch online how things turn out, the film was better when it used visual cues and mystery to tell the tale. Granted, it would be difficult to pull off the sort of tale that The Disappearance of Alice Creed is at the beginning for the full movie, but it would have definitely been worth the effort. Blakeson is at his best when he’s using light, shadows, and the physical nature of his characters to tell the tale. His movie is like the biggest Christmas present under the tree, and once you take the wrapper off and discover a new clothes hamper, you can’t help but think, “Hmmm… that’s useful, but wouldn’t it have been better if it was a golden toilet?”
One reason the beginning of the film is so damn impressive to watch is because of the assemblage of a great cast… three people to be precise. Gemma Arterton will get much of the kudos, mostly because she gets naked and her performance isn’t half bad, but its Martin Compston and Eddie Marstan who make the film pop. Martin Compston plays the younger of the two kidnappers, a conflicted and soft individual. Eddie Marstan is downright terrifying as the methodical brains of the operation. His businesslike nature and barely contained violence are the source of much of the tension. Together, Compston and Marstan work well together, while you’ll simply wish they kept the ball-gag in Arterton’s mouth.
For me, The Disappearance of Alice Creed is a story of convention destroying potential. The movie panders to the lowest common denominator in the last 40 minutes, which is never a good thing to do. But man, those first fifty minutes are absolutely fabulous. By the end, most viewers won’t give two shits about any of these characters, which is the most disappointing aspect.
This is a solid flick, especially for such a smalltime scale. This could have been made by anyone, but J Blakeson makes it pop. It’s far from perfect, but it’s definitely worth a watch.