Friday, December 3, 2010

The Disappearance of Alice Creed

I know it's wrong, but I had Eve 6's "Inside Out" running through my head while watching this movie.  "Tie me to the bedpoooooooost...!"  So naughty, those boys.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed opens with little fanfare.  No opening credits, no dialogue.  Just two guys shopping for things and setting up a room.  As they're assembling the room, it becomes apparent that this is not a Bob Villa project; the bed is bolted to the floor, with soundproof padding stapled to the walls, and several locks on the bedroom and outside door.  Since you know the title, it's obvious that this room is meant to hold someone (Alice Creed, perhaps?), but the setup is smart and clearly thought out to the last detail.  The next thing you see is the two men, masked and wearing identical suits of clothing, snatching a woman.  Her screams are the first lines of dialogue in the film, and their incoherence makes the lack of dialogue all the more apparent.  She is brought into the room, handcuffed to the bed, feet tied to some knobs on the bed frame (bought at the hardware store and drilled into place) with a bag over her head.  Her clothes are cut off and a pictures are taken, one of her tear-stained face and the other is taken of the day's newspaper next to her tattoo.  She is then dressed in a jumper and left alone, more or less clueless, frightened, and with a bag over her head.  The men strip, bag their clothes and her old clothes, and prepare to burn the evidence.  It looks like the perfect crime, butwhat's the fun in watching that?

I would love to go into more detail on the plot, but this is one of those movies where the less you know, the better.  I have to say that this is one of the most realistic and plausible crime stories I have seen on film.  What is more impressive than that is the fact that it compares favorably to Reservoir Dogs in the "who do you trust" game.  I was definitely impressed with the film's opening ten or fifteen minutes, they were mean and lean, with lots of detail and a lot of things left unsaid, but enough nonverbal clues to understand them anyway.  I love when crime movies assume that the audience is smart.

This movie could have been a play.  About 85% of the film takes place in the kidnap-ready apartment, and there are only three characters in the film.  Obviously, Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton) is the kidnap victim, and this is far and away the best acting I have seen from Arterton.  Granted, she spends a good amount of the film with a ball gag in her mouth, but she looks suitably frightened and determined, as the script demands.  I was surprised at the amount of nudity in this film (mostly from her), but I think her acting helped separate this film from soft-core bondage flicks.  Well, since I'm not into that sort of thing, I guess I'm assuming that her horror-film quality fear secured this as "non-erotic."  Martin Compston played Danny, the obviously dumb kidnapper.  Even though his character isn't too bright, I thought the part was played well and, when the proper moment arrived, Compston delivered on giving his character layers.  By far, though, the standout performance here was that of Vic by Eddie Marsdan.  I have never been impressed with Marsdan's supporting roles, but he was excellent here.  He was tough, vulnerable, forgiving, vengeful...I actually think this was one of the best performances of the last year.  Will it get Oscar recognition?  Absolutely not, but Marsdan was fantastic.  This was the feature film debut for director J Blakeson, who also wrote the film.  I thought he did a great job.  The direction and cinematography were pretty good, although not necessarily artfully done, and the script put put together well.  Overall, a very nice first film.

Is this movie revolutionary?  Is it a game-changer?  Not really, but it is lean and mean, and each character has their opportunity to shine.  The claustrophobic setting works for and against this picture, making the threats seem more immediate, but also limiting the number of conflicts that can arise.  Thankfully, the plot doesn't get terribly convoluted, but the story (which would have still been good if Marsdan had done a mediocre job) doesn't spend enough time on Marsdan's stand-out character for my taste.

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