out of Five
Running time: 98
Impressively directed and superbly written, this is a hugely enjoyable, constantly surprising and thoroughly gripping thriller with terrific performances from its three leads.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by first-timer J Blakeson, The Disappearance of Alice Creed stars Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston as ex-cons Vic and Danny, who are preparing to execute a meticulously prepared plan. After securing and sound-proofing an empty flat, they kidnap socialite Alice Creed (a remarkably game Gemma Arterton), chain her to a bed, strip her naked, photograph her, stick her in a purple tracksuit, issue a ransom demand and wait for her wealthy father to make contact. However, Alice turns out to be much more resourceful than either Vic or Danny had bargained for and events soon take an unexpected turn.
The three leads are terrific. Eddie Marsan somehow manages to make Vic both chilling and vulnerable, often within the same scene, while Martin Compston is intriguingly unpredictable throughout. Similarly, Gemma Arterton delivers her best performance to date, nailing her emotional scenes (particularly her video-taped message to camera) and adding complex shades to Alice as the film progresses.
Blakeson's direction is remarkably assured, creating an effectively claustrophobic atmosphere and maintaining a palpable level of suspense from start to finish. You know you're in good hands from the opening scene onwards, in which a concisely edited montage sequence shows Vic and Danny wordlessly preparing the kidnap room, but also includes a scene where they take a sandwich break.
The tightly constructed script is constantly surprising, adeptly wrong-footing the audience at every turn but never sacrificing believability. It even manages to work in clever visual references to films such as Miller's Crossing and Trainspotting.
In addition, Blakeson orchestrates several terrific sequences, all of which it would be churlish to reveal here. Suffice it to say that the film closes with an utterly brilliant final touch.
This is a hugely enjoyable thriller with a terrific script and superb performances from Eddie Marsan, Martin Compston and Gemma Arterton. Not only is it one of the best British films of the year, it also marks writer-director Blakeson out as a talent to watch. Highly recommended.
The Disappearance of Alice Creed (18)