Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Review: The Disappearance of Alice Creed

Year: 2009 (U.K. Release 2010)
Director: J Blakeson
Screenplay: J Blakeson,
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Eddie Marsan, Martin Compston

Synopsis is here

The first 13 minutes of this film has no dialogue just precise work. One or two glances and nods, but there's almost like a telepathic link between the two characters we see. They're setting up for a plan and all that concerns them is the matter at hand. It's a tense and well put together set up that almost felt reminiscent to Michael Hanke's The Seventh Continent (1989) but the Non-Diegetic music accompanying the scenes help make this less of an examination but the imagery still manages to keep up an interesting and similar, simmering amount of tension (although Hanke will always be on a different level).

Executed in such a short and sharp way for most of it's running time; TDOAC is a tightly wound thriller that keeps the details small and the pace quick. It keeps an asshole like me from taking a second glance at such nonsense like plot mechanics. It's three characters (the only ones you'll see) are quickly thrown together and present an engaging dynamic. They all held my attention in one way or another and kept my interest level high.

If my dumb ass asked questions, it was about motivations, not clues. Why is that important? Because when I think of clues I begin to try too hard in figuring the film out. Motivations say that the characters are bigger than the clues, more interesting and worth much more of your time. That's what I liked about this movie. Set mostly within one set (a dilapidated high rise flat), these motivations twist, turn and get larger, the size of the room stays the same. That's the presence of claustrophobia I like.

J Blakeson's debut film is an assured feature that does as best as it can with very little. From it's methodical beginning, to it's building of the climax in the third act which cheekily looks to have pilfered from a pivotal moment from the Coen Brothers Miller's Crossing, it knows that it has to keep moving to stay interesting. To achieve this, Blakeson casts actors who all distracted me with their portrayals of desperation. From the straight talking Eddie Marsden (an actor who doesn't get enough credit) to an effective performance from Gemma Arterton. Arterton's Alice is a long way away from her "bigger" roles and she shows to me that given a chance she can really bring some guts to a role. The lesser known actor Martin Compston has a lot to do and handles it pretty well. His performance is pretty much key to the film and if you don't believe in it then the film will probably unravel for the viewer.

It's the strength of the acting that helped me forget about flaws that the film has. For one this is a 90 minute feature running at 100 minutes. If the film was shaved a little then I feel the tension could have ran higher. Also a character revelation gained a few titters in the audience. This may be because it feels quite outlandish, it may be because the audience was immature, either way it's a moment handled well by the actors, but isn't the strongest part of the narrative.

Despite this, TDOAC is a tightly wound thriller with some confident direction and strong performances. It was also a film that brought in more of an audience than I had thought. I like to think that this is because it is another British film that doesn't quickly fall into the cockney gangsters or tweed Romantic comedy that for some reason we keep encouraging ourselves to make. Yay us!