Short Takes: The Disappearance of Alice Creed
By Laura Kern
(J Blakeson, U.K., 2009)
Let’s clear something up right off the bat and say that the last thing anyone needs is another movie featuring a clothing-deprived girl tied to a bed, for purposes of torture or otherwise. That The Disappearance of Alice Creed starts out by setting up this exhausted scenario, however skillfully, is indeed sigh-worthy.
But in no time it becomes apparent that the rules are different in writer-director J Blakeson’s twisty feature debut—and that’s what fans of the thriller genre want. It’s a spare film—three characters, limited dialogue and locations—in which a young woman (Gemma Arterton) is kidnapped by two men, who demand a ransom from her filthy-rich father. Yes, she’s tied up, and, yes, there is ample baring of Arterton’s body, but unlike in this year’s Clash of the Titans, she proves she can act herself out of a bag—and maybe even shackles too.
Any halfway-intelligent abduction movie should keep audiences hanging on, rooting for the prisoner’s release. This certainly applies to the feisty Alice Creed, even if she’s not entirely sympathetic, while the captors (nicely played by Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston) sometimes come off better than they perhaps deserve. It’s the ambiguous relationships and motivations among the trio that defy expectations—and should serve as a lesson to those shallow provocateurs responsible for the Hostels and the Human Centipedes of the world.