In these cash-strapped times its great to see a film with a limited budget being so carefully crafted, tightly written and grittily performed. The Disappearance of Alice Creed has a simple set-up, an austere visual style but unravels a series of complex emotions and feelings in a successful and satisfying way.
The mood is set during a remarkable opening 13 minutes, in which not a word is said. Two men, Vic and Danny, visit a DIY store, and gather the materials to soundproof and secure a grubby flat for an equally murky purpose. They then kidnap a young girl, tie her up and force her to make a ransom demand on a tape which they send to her rich father. They want £2m, and have chosen Alice Creed because her father was featured in a newspaper article about rich entrepreneurs.
What follows is a twisty, Hitchcockian thriller with nods to Millers Crossing, Trainspotting and Hidden, but the real skill here is that director Blakeson never puts style over substance, or has a character say anything inauthentic for the sake of plot exposition. Its tight, tense and genuinely nasty, and spares no details. The mood is set up when Alice has her clothes cut off her, and the tricky business of emptying her bladder is dealt with.
We learn that our two kidnappers met doing time together, and Vic has been planning the kidnapping meticulously for months. Alice though is not quite willing to play the helpless victim, and fights back in some very unexpected ways.
Many films claim to be two or three handers but usually feature some glimpses of other characters, here it is literally true not a single other human is seen in the whole 100 minutes. To pull that off you need three actors on top form, and that is certainly the case here. Compston, from the Ken Loach school, is the furtive, enigmatic kidnapper, physically fragile but mentally quick and flirty, while Marsan is the apparently tougher, more robust criminal with intense eyes and a set jaw.
Its Arterton who is the real revelation though, in the harrowing role of Alice. She has been content in the past to be the eye candy, especially in Clash Of The Titans and Quantum of Solace, but here there is no perfect make-up and lovely dresses, rather a hideous purple tracksuit and puffy eyes from crying too much. She completely convinces in the journey from terrified victim to fighter, eyes burning fiercely and head held up high. She is the heart of the film, essential if we are to follow her journey.
Visually Alice Creed makes the most of its limited setting and budget, and creates a claustrophobic, sweaty atmosphere with an always present threat of physical violence. Its a film which paints in only a few colours but uses them in a complex way.
Overall Verdict: Tight, intense kidnap thriller, thoroughly efficient and with enough pace and twists to satisfy. Be warned though, its tough, and you have to be in the mood.
Reviewer: Mike Martin