We all need a get rich quick scheme from time to time, but as they go, kidnapping a rich man’s daughter and fishing for a handsome ransom might seem one of the more extreme ones. And in theory, quite an attractive one too, if the victim is Gemma Arterton, In this film? She’s occasionally naked, occasionally seductive, and she spends an awful lot of time tied to the bed. Sometimes you need to be careful what you wish for.
In reality, The Disappearance Of Alice Creed is not a particularly pleasant film, let alone a sexy one, though. A three-hander largely set in one room, artfully shot and directed by J Blakeson (Descent 2), who also scripts with a distinctive tone and voice, it’s brutally real and surreally brutal in shifts.
There’s barely a word uttered in the first ten minutes, as the ‘cell’ is prepared in ‘Changing Rooms: From Hell’ detail. Alice is stripped, photographed, struck. She cries, she schemes, she’s not allowed to go to the bathroom, and the rope imprints on her wrists don’t lie, as the DVD’making of’ attests, That’s method for you. Arterton went for it, and ably proves that she’s in the ascendance.
Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan, too, act their socks off, but at times are fighting a losing battle making the heavily stylised dialogue believable.
In focusing entirely on interactions between the kidnappers and the victim, the narrative has an original slant. However, as multiple gear changes in relationships power through and the last act plays out, sometimes predictably, sometimes not, with some things believable, some not, I never really enjoyed it.
The theme of ‘loss of control’ is effectively explored from most angles, but the end doesn’t really justify the means, because there isn’t really much of an ending. They’re too sketchy, these people. Even an extended scene on the DVD, which features a commentary detailing the reasons for excising a bit of characterisation and backstory, doesn’t go as far as to be the missing piece of the puzzle.
Like get rich quick kidnapping schemes, in practice, the film is all about the here and now, and remained so on a re-watch.
The presentation for DVD is fine, with animated menus, a serviceable set of brief, but effective bonus features, and there aren’t any issues with picture quality or sound that jumped out on me.
Perhaps the standard kidnapping drama tropes are so engrained that the block is mine. Good filmmaking ought to push boundaries, which this does, and it never tries to dazzle you. But for my taste, it is too cold, too bleak. Mind you, spending time in the Isle of Man out of season will do that to the best of us. As a former resident, my location spotting extended to vaguely recognising a bleak car park in the final scenes and my national pride properly swelled as a result.
All aside, I’d still be interested in seeing more of Blakeson’s directorial work, perhaps working with other writers.