Kidnapping movies have more or less the same outcome; the kidnappers get what they want or they don’t. It’s one of the most basic sub-genre of movies which, at the same time, makes it tough to be original. That said Alice Creed does give us a ransom film that’s not entirely predictable. High points for the film abound but one thing to take close note of is writer/director J Blakeson has fully proven that the “less is more” formula still does and will always work. The Disappearance of Alice Creed is like a perfect, no nonsense “how to kidnap someone” movie…only thing they don’t tell us is how to get guts and willpower to pull it off.
In what is a very tight, no frills, no nonsense story, everything in Alice Creed is done in such a matter-of-fact manner, you’d think you were watching it happen in real time. Stripping away all the expected elements of this type of film, save for the trio of characters, was both bold but highly effective. There was no back story, no endearing Alice to the audience, no police, no wire-tap scenes, no frantic parents, in fact there are but three characters in the whole film; Alice and her two captors. Going for a focused “this is happening” look, Creed is this is a one sided story replete with all the trappings for kidnapping movie…lock said victim in a dark, soundproof room with only a bed, handcuffs, gag, etc. Some elements you just can’t get around repeating but the way it was shot worked very well.
Like I said, there are only three characters in the movie, so in my mind they had better be either likable or convincing; the good news is they are both. The film plays each of these characters on continually slippery slopes and once they lose their footing they’re never getting it back. Eddie Marsan plays the mastermind Vic so well, Martin Compston is the impressionable Danny, and Gemma Arterton is the titular Alice Creed. Each get themselves deeper in the quicksand that is this tight plot and thankfully have more to offer than their seemingly 2 dimensional roles of captor and captive. In fact they come a long way from when we are first introduced to them.
The fourth character here is definitely the editor. In a film that could be easily done on stage (since there are only 2 maybe 3 locations) it could get boring pretty fast. The scenes, especially the preparation in the beginning were done with an almost comic book frame jump showing the audience only what they need to see and even more succinctly it was done with no dialog. There really is no reason to explain why they are doing what they are doing. Further, there was no forced and banal chit chat. Vic and Danny just stick to the job at hand and you don’t quit or rest til the job is done. Also, the music was strangely lacking which actually worked. It allowed the tension of the scenes to play out without the composers pretty much telling us how to feel or what to expect from each scene. In one instance the soup scene was cut with such precision and set a metronome-like pace, there was high tension all over the place.
As stated above, being shot on no more than 3 sets/locations, there isn’t a lot to marvel at. But that’s the beauty of the film, it’s that level of disparagement surrounding the kidnapping. It felt pretty real with an almost Saw-like eeriness and J Blakeson goes a good way to make crime unglamorous. Also with no one but the main characters to focus on there was no way to tell really what would happen to Alice, Danny and Vic. Who knew if Alice would be rescued, or if the the authorities were circling the building, as we only saw things from their points of view. Although the film has only 3 characters, the scenes mostly occupied with interactions between only 2 of them at at time. The chemistry is palpable, intense and best of all it was heightened in each succeeding scene making it highly enjoyable to watch unfold.
Leave it to the Brits to tell so much story with so little information and exposition. This is a near perfect film and one that shows you don’t have to make it overblown like Ransom to make it effective and impacting. Throw in the twists and the tension built by the characters and the characters alone, this is a edgy unpredictable heist-like film. The chemistry of the small but very effective cast gets more than the desired effect and keep you near the edge of your seat. Fine performances and an incredible effort from young director J Blakeson make this a fascinatingly simple but effective kidnapping film. In fact, it’s so good I think even Alice wouldn’t mind going through all over again…well, maybe not, but I sure would.