The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009) dir. J. Blakeson
Starring: Eddie Marsan, Gemma Arterton, Martin Compston
by Alan Bacchus
With only his first feature film we can immediately sense special things to come from J. Blakeson - an ingenious three-hand kidnapper noir conceived and executed with the same kind of cinematic confidence as a young Christopher Nolan or David Fincher.
There should be very little said about the plot of this picture other than 2 kidnappers grab and hold for ransom the daughter of a wealthy man. That’s it. That’s all you should know before diving into Blakeson’s razor sharp, twisty and utterly beguiling chamber drama.
Blakeson takes one of the most basic of Hollywood genre-premises, the kidnap-ransom plot, distills everything extraneous to the three main characters, and boils the picture down to its essential emotions. We don’t meet any of the characters before the kidnapping, never see a money exchange or any conversations outside of the room, and never ever do we see a policeman.
There’s only three people in the film: Vic (Eddie Marsan) the alpha-criminal who goes about the business of crime with steely-eyed efficiency; Danny (Martin Compston), the apprentice, who follows orders from Vic and the only one who appears to have a conscience in the affair; and of course, Alice Creed (Gemma Anderton), the poor victim who spends most of the film gagged and bound to four corners of a bed.
The opening sequence is marvel of thriller montage scenes. Blakeson cuts together a stunning preparation sequence as we see Vic and Danny go to the hardware store, buy all the necessary tools and supplies for the job and construct their kidnappers' layer inside some kind of vacant apartment flat.
Blakeson’s formal and precise compositions, pacing and ultra-sharp lighting scheme resembles a David Fincher-like attention to detail, a style which compliments and subliminally establishes the precision of Vic and Danny’s plan.
The duo seems to have everything covered including a bed pan for Alice to pee in when required. What they don’t plan for is the emotional attachment to the job. As much as possible Vic commands Danny NOT to think, to remain focused on the work, Danny just can’t do that and when his motivations for the job are revealed, it becomes the first wrench in the works. Just when we think we know where the film is headed we learn about Vic’s motivations for the job. Even Alice’s needs and presence complicates things. Soon it becomes a complex Mexican stand-off, each one trying to hold their poker faces as best they can to get out alive. And by focusing on character as much as the procedural details as the scheme starts to unravel we’re never quite sure who, if anyone, will come out on top in the end – Vic, Danny, or Alice.
Many great directors have begun their careers with this type of noir. Blakeson’s work stands tall beside neo-noir classics such as “Bound”, “Shallow Grave”, “Memento”, “Blood Simple”. Watch for great things in the future from this guy.