Running Time: 100 minutes
US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 18
Country: United Kingdom
Ever since the success of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, there seems to be a British crime thriller or gangster movie released every week but rarely are they any good and they almost always sink without trace. Against all the odds, The Disappearance of Alice Creed from rookie director J. Blakeson is very likely to buck the trend.
The story is pretty basic – two ex-convicts, Vic (Marsan) and Danny (Crompton) kidnap Alice Creed (Arterton), the daughter of one of Britain’s richest men, and take her back to a non-descript, soundproofed apartment. What seems to be a cut and dried kidnapping soon turns messy as the relationships between the three protagonists are revealed and they begin to double and triple cross each other.
Through the wordless textbook kidnapping, the introduction of the characters and various ensuing games of cat-and-mouse, The Disappearance of Alice Creed comes across as a raw, stripped back kidnap thriller with all the attention being focussed on the right areas – plot, characterisation and tension building. From the simple premise, everything is kept uncomplicated and neat, there are only three characters in the entire movie, only one person who could conceivably even pass for an extra (answers on a postcard) and the majority of the action takes place in one room. Wisely, there is no hardbitten hostage negotiator plotline tacked on to dilute the tension built up in the room. This minimalist dimension allows the viewer to truly see how it feels for the hostage to be completely cut off from the outside world and Blakeson does well to never make this film feel as low budget as it is.
Arterton, Compston and Marsan are all superb. Despite being ball-gagged up for the best part of the film, Arterton movingly displays the terror and emotion of a kidnap victim with just yelps and squirms, Marsan is convincing as the sinister criminal mastermind and Compston’s performance is nuanced enough that you never know who Danny will side with. It’s obvious enough from the trailers that there are going to be twists and turns but they are never signposted and genuinely satisfying, and ambiguous motives and complex relationships keep things interesting. All in all, this is the best British thriller in while and should be a benchmark for the rest.
It's Got: Three excellent performances, satisfying twists, a menacing soundtrack
It Needs: To be used as a benchmark for other Brit-flick attempts.
Alternatives:Dog Day Afternoon, Sexy Beast, The Crying Game
A simple yet gripping, stripped back tale of kidnap and multiple betrayal with three fine performances and plenty of tension. At last, a really good British crime thriller not based on Mockney geezers or football hooligans.