The low budget indie thriller The Disappearance of Alice Creed comes to DVD next Tuesday. The movie, which stars Gemma Arterton, Martin Compston Eddie Marsan and no one else, is about a young woman who is kidnapped by two masked men and locked in a small room for ransom. But as is often the case, things don't go exactly as planned for the kidnappers.
Written and directed by J Blakeson, The Disappearance of Alice Creed is a moderately entertaining thriller that features good performances by its three stars and an interesting story, but strangely lacks suspense. It works, but it doesn't defy its genre in the way some critics have claimed.
Arterton delivers her best performance to date. Best known for Clash of the Titans and Prince of Persia (both also released this year), the actress is on the rise. I'm still not convinced she's going to catch on in Hollywood, but Alice Creed proves she does have some chops to do gritty and emotional, which she hasn't had the opportunity to do up until this point.
Marsan (Happy-Go-Lucky) is good as always and the highlight of the movie, even though he is in many ways the "third" character. He is at once deliberate and emotionally erratic and makes for a compelling villain. Compston is also very good as the most nebulous of the three.
The Disappearance of Alice Creed is well written and directed. Blakeson keeps things simple (there are only three actors and one primary setting, a small apartment) and as a result he's able to channel his talents into the finer details of the story. The movie works more often than not as a result.
Still, one thing that is noticeably lacking, despite the quality acting, tight writing and emotionally charged atmosphere, is suspense. The Disappearance of Alice Creed keeps you guessing - you really don't know how it's going to end - and yet to say I was on the edge of my seat, or even invested in the characters, would be stretching it. The movie isn't nail biting, even though what's happening on screen should be. I didn't really care what happened to any of the three characters, including Alice Creed, and the one I cared for the most (Marsan) was the one whose fate was most predictable.
The Disappearance of Alice Creed has all the components of a successful thriller except for the one that really matters: tension. It's hard to pinpoint where Blakeson went wrong, but by putting all three characters on equal footing, it became challenging to emotionally invest in the victim's dilemma. You want her to escape, but you want the bad guys to succeed, or you don't want them to succeed but don't care whether Alice escapes. That's problematic, and the reason why The Disappearance of Alice Creed just barely misses the mark.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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