Olaolu's Review of The Disappearance of Alice Creed
Now here's a nice, underrated little gem; a taut, gripping and consistently suspenseful British thriller that, while far from perfect, still manages to keep audiences on the edges of their seats, constantly guessing and second guessing the characters and their true motivations. As with any self-respecting production of this sort, there are plot twists but unlike in the average Hollywood-produced effort, they aren't so hard to swallow that the audience is forced to suspend it's disbelief to an exorbitant degree. Also, in a nice departure from the norm, the villains aren't complete idiots; they may not be perfect but it's pretty clear that they at least attempt to think their scheme through before just rushing into it without a defined plan - in fact, the opening dialogue-free sequence shows just how smoothly the kidnappers are able to pull off capturing and subduing their mark (although their motives for committing this crime aren't initially made clear). Of course, everyone knows the saying about best laid schemes of mice and men and that maxim definitely applies here.
Likewise, the titular victim of the kidnapping is far from the standard order damsel in distress; she's tough, resilient and surprisingly resourceful. This is one chick who isn't gonna just sit back and willingly accept her captivity. Ultimately, the relationships amongst this trio of characters are what truly fuel this movie's considerable suspense. It gets to the point where our perceptions of - and consequently our sympathies with - these people shift several times throughout the film.
Credit the trio of actors in the film, none of whom misses a beat with the arc that his or her character takes during the course of the proceedings. As the title character, Gemma Arterton gives an especially brave performance and this goes beyond the nudity that's required of her role; the actress is forced to spend most of the film chained to a bed and is often shown in scenarios that are less than flattering. How many Hollywood actress - talented and attractive though they may be - would be willing to show themselves in this light, especially when they came to prominence as a result of glitzier, big-budget parts (her biggest role before this was as a Bond girl in Quantum of Solace and she has since appeared in the likes of The Prince of Persia and the Clash of the Titans remake)? With this performance, Arterton not only proves her ability, but also her fearlessness.
As her two captors, Danny and Vic, Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan are also rock-solid. Marsan is commanding in his role as the initially more menacing Vic but Compston does a nice job of playing up the ambiguities of his character. Danny may seem like the more submissive one in this partnership but in this movie, first impressions can be and often are deceiving.
Put simply, this film efficiently and effectively accomplishes the goal of any self-respecting, tautly-paced thriller, which is to build and maintain suspense. Unlike many other more generic genre entries however, this one doesn't need to rely on the well-worn standbys of routine action sequences and wild implausibilities to generate its brand of white-knuckle tension. There are certainly violent encounters and some gun-play here but nothing that one wouldn't normally expect from a scenario like this. I won't claim that this is a masterpiece of the genre; as with most films of this sort, the proceedings begin to lose a little steam as the film gets to its final act and the ending is perhaps a little too neat and conventional. On the balance however, Alice Creed manages to rivet the audience's attention for nearly the entire running length and at just over an hour and a half, it doesn't come close to wearing out its welcome.