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Movie Review

The Disappearance Of Alice Creed

The Disappearance Of Alice Creed
Menace is afoot as two men wordlessly shop for construction materials. They strip an apartment and a van bare, then refit them with soundproofing and plastic tarps. And then the two men abduct a woman from the street and bring her to the seedy apartment, where they bind her to the bed. As foreshadowed, they strip her bare, then photograph her and transmit the photograph to her father. And then the three wait for the cool millions in ransom to flow in. So begins this twisting, turning film by writer-director J Blakeson.

His visual ideas for creating tension well-serve the script. The room in which most of the story takes place looks like a coffin; he shoots up at the kidnappers; his framing shapes our awareness. The script, however, better serves the direction than it serves the story and any connection the audience may feel with the film's three characters. They are, we find out along the way, two men who met in prison and a woman connected with one of them.

The younger of the men, Danny (Martin Compston), keeps his emotions so under wraps, we never quite believe where his allegiances lie—if he has any. Vic (Eddie Marsan) loves his top-man status, sniffs at Danny's moods like a bloodhound, but never rises to someone we either fear or admire. Alice (Gemma Arterton), albeit in a horrific situation no one should ever have to face, never seems appealing enough to earn our concern.

Arterton cries and pleads for most of the film, until her raspy gasping and begging become repetitive—though haunting. Her eyes evidence defiance once or twice; the rest of the time Blakeson leaves her with one note. Compston, despite playing an emotionally veiled character, squeezes out equal doses of strength and confusion to give Danny a bit of dimension. Marsan gives the film its best moments, if for nothing else than letting us enjoy watching the veins bulge under his eyes as Vic's fury flares.

Is the film a comedy? Are the implausible and convenient points, the personal connections among the characters, and the ending meant for laughs? What about the sight gags? Vic and Danny dress Alice in a grape-colored tracksuit. Danny must flush a bullet casing down the loo; it bubbles back up several times, in several ways. Why does Blakeson film moments from inside a microwave? Did he choose to silence Alice with a ball gag because the sight of a dirty sock stuffed in her mouth wouldn't have quite the same salacious impact?

And while we're asking questions, why do the kidnappers replace a wall clock with another? And why by the midpoint of the film does Arterton's makeup look fresher and fresher? Why does the film's title invokes disappearance, when Alice never disappears from the story? Might it have to do with the film's ending? So many of the wrong kinds of questions, so few of the right kinds of answers, mar full enjoyment of this film.

Genre: Thriller. Written and directed by: J Blakeson. Starring: Gemma Arterton, Martin Compston, Eddie Marsan.

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