The Disappearance of Alice Creed

Gemma Arterton is Alice Creed.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed opens with a point-by-point look at two men (a menacing Eddie Marsan and a bewildered Martin Compston) preparing for the kidnapping of our titular anti-heroine (former Bond girl Gemma Arterton).  Writer/director J. Blakeson builds the tension confidently with well shot, well scored scenes that lull the audience into believing these men are so meticulous and organized, whatever it is they are about to do, they’re going to pull it off brilliantly.  They just have to.  Oh, but when you mix in human emotions, things couldn’t go more astray.

We’ve seen these kidnap flicks before, and we know something always goes horribly awry.  Blakeson knows he’s going to have to keep us on our toes, and he does so with some gravely intimate moments while falling back on old-fashioned melodrama.  Marsan is quickly evolving into a British Paul Giamatti, and he gives an assured performance as the mastermind ex-con who hatched the plot.  Meanwhile Compston navigates his character’s strangely curious emotions to good effect.  The two men’s motives are clear, but surprisingly layered.  We don’t need any more back-story than we receive, and the film’s most shocking twists come courtesy of the revelations surrounding their modus operandi. 

Where things become muddied, however, is in the character of Alice Creed.  Gemma Arterton has an arresting look about her (there’s a mod-60’s vibe, and her upper lip looks like she was stung by bees) that can be distracting.  She plays the part of a spoiled little rich girl in trouble rather well, but her character’s motivations and background are never made clear.  Perhaps Blakeson wanted the character to remain a mystery to the audience to keep us guessing…but Arterton doesn’t have the charisma or natural womanly wiles to pull off that kind of role…if that was even the kind of role intended.  It’s clear Blakeson wanted to have a deep psychology running underneath the mayhem, but he drops the ball by giving us nothing to go by to explain Alice’s actions, or lack thereof at times.  Maybe the film’s title is a red-herring…or maybe not.

Ultimately, Blakeson emerges as a writer/director to watch.  His promising but slightly faulty debut thriller isn’t quite as knowing as it wants so desperately to be, but it does boast a good twist on the kidnap drama.  When not relying on preposterous melodramatic moments in lieu of real character development, it’s a rather intense, nasty, lean little British neo-noir.  Do check it out if you like that kind of thing.

Written by David H. Schleicher

** Note:  I saw the film at City Cinemas in the East Village on 181 2nd Avenue after a return visit to Cafe Mogador for the best falafel you will ever find in NYC, or any city for that matter.  Highly recommended.

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4 comments on “The Disappearance of Alice Creed

  1. Sam Juliano says:

    Glad to hear your trip to the City Cinemas was in large measure a winning one David, though I haven’t seen this film yet. i understand what you are saying about the inherent difficulties with this material though. Marsen is a fine actor for sure, and this does look like a fine inde.

    Cafe Mogodar, eh? I happen to love falafel (the best never gives me heartburn) and I’ll have to check out this place!

    Sam, all I have to say is “best falafel EVER”. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on the film as well if you get around to it. –DHS

  2. DeeDee says:

    Bonjour! D.H.Schleicher…
    …What a “surprise” I have never heard of this film, but what a very well—written review, very descriptive too!

    D.H.Schleicher said,”Gemma Arterton has an arresting look about her (there’s a mod-60′s vibe, and her upper lip looks like she was stung by bees) that can be distracting…”
    LOL!!!!…I thought that you were going to say that was an “attractive” look…ala…actress Angelina Jolie.
    Merci,for sharing…I will check out your link…shortly!
    DeeDee ;)

    DeeDee, count me as one of those guys that doesn’t think the “artifically puffed-up upper lip” is a good look on a woman. It always looks to me like they’ve been beaten-up or have had some kind of allergic reaction. And Arterton is an attractive gal…there’s no need for the “work”. –DHS

  3. DeeDee says:

    Bonjour! D.H.Schleicher…After visiting your link I remember your visit to…Cafe Mogodar… Hmmm…
    Merci, for sharing…again!

  4. Oh David, why do you write intriguing reviews of movies I have already decided not to see. Now you’ve got me thinking I should give it a try when I already have a too many movies to see. My big turn off when I saw the trailer was Gemma Arterton. In every movie I have seen her in she has just been a snoozer. She was awful in The Prince of Persia. But you have piqued my interest with other elements you liked so I may put aside my anti-Arterton bias and go see it. Maybe…

    Jason, I agree she is not a very good actress – and she is a distraction here – but there are enough compelling elements in the film for me to give it a moderate recommendation to discerning types such as yourself. Let me know what you make of it if you do get around to it. –DHS

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