Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Disappearance of Alice Creed - Home Video Review

Release Date: August 6, 2010

Review Vital Stats:
Format: Blu-ray
Player: LG Model 370
Picture Quality: High-Definition
Sound Quality: High-Definition

Likes: Gemma Arterton, revenge thrillers
Neutral: Hostage films
Hates: Too many twists

Gemma Arterton has had a rough year with such commercial and critical flops as Prince of Persia and the Clash of the Titans. I have yet to see the former but the latter was disposable trash that is best forgotten by everyone. But neither of those failures are to be blamed on her (maybe her casting agent though) because in Clash she at least did as passable a job as could be expected with such a rubbish script and character that she had to work with. However, other than those two films and her small part in the Bond film Quantum of Solace I wasn't really sold on her acting abilities, at least as far as a lead performance was concerned. Then I saw The Disappearance of Alice Creed and all those bad memories from Clash were washed away.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that this is a career defining role but Mrs. Arterton is given so much more to work with here than I think she has ever had before. This is the type of role that an actor lives for and sinks their teeth into because of how daring the material is and it is more than clear from what we see on screen that she really put herself out there for this film. Despite how low key it is and the limited audience it is playing too, if she was looking for something to make people remember her then this is that film. I suppose I should clue you in on what exactly this film is before I go any further into details about the performances.

These kidnappers mean business.
The film opens with us seeing two men, Vic (Eddie Marson) and Danny (Martin Compston) going through some major preparations. They meticulously create a soundproof room complete with a single bed nailed to the floor and some chains and ropes attached to it for good measure. They cover the inside of their van with plastic, add about 10 locks to the door of their apartment and block out all sunlight to prevent any prying eyes from seeing what they are up to. This entire opening segment goes on for almost 10 minutes with not one word said between the two men. They stop and take a break to eat some sandwiches but it is right back to business. We don't know what they are planning but we are able to discern that whatever it is it isn't good.

Immediately after those preparations are done the next thing we see them do is put on some masks and throw an unknown woman kicking and screaming into the back of their van. With very little hassle they get her back to their apartment, tied down to the bed in the soundproof room, and strip her naked as she puts up a useless struggle. They begin taking photos of her naked body, put her clothes back on, shut off the lights and lock the door behind them. At this point we are as in the dark as the woman is about what exactly is going on. However it is more than clear that they have abducted this woman and they are serious about what they are doing and very professional about it all.

Alice Creed tries to plea for her life.
We soon learn that the woman being held hostage is Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton), estranged daughter of some rich industrialist. The two men have taken her hostage until they are paid a large sum of cash for her safe return. Danny, the younger of the two, was the guy that picked her out for the job and brought his friend Vic, whom is fresh out of jail in on it. As demonstrated from the opening scenes of the film they have planned everything out perfectly so to leave nothing to chance. They are extremely cautious about using phones, leaving the apartment and never letting Alice ever get a whiff of an idea of what is going on. Unfortunately for Vic, Danny, and to some extent Alice they didn't plan on the unexpected and when this house of cards comes tumbling down they all get whats coming to them in the end.

I don't want to go into it anymore than that because without putting too fine a point on it the film takes many twists and turns as it progresses that will have your head spinning by the time it all comes to its conclusion. This is a genre film though and it has many different notes it has to hit for it to work and as far as a hostage film goes I think it hit everyone of those notes perfectly. For starters this is another one of those single location films with only our three leads ever being seen on screen. The film almost feels as though it were adapted from a stage play with how it uses the apartment. Especially with how we see and hear nobody else and have to pay attention to everything that is said to be able to keep up with all the different plot points that arise.

Vic gets ready to take care of business.
What I felt worked so well was the dynamic between all the actors. The scenes involving Vic and Danny taking care of Alice are appropriately disturbing and disarming. Alice is humiliated throughout the course of the film from the moment they strip to her to the times when they have her urinate in a jug or take care of business in a bucket while they watch is painful for her and us. I wouldn't go so far to say that it is torture but what she is put through is hard to watch and has the potential to turn off a lot of people because of how raw it all is. Which is a shame if that happens because she eventually starts to fight back but not quite in the way one would expect. The number of twists that take place though make it difficult to know who to root for because you think you know one character one moment and the next they flip on you again.

The motivations for each of the three characters (yes, Alice has motivations as well but those don't surface until later) are what delivers us the many twists and turns the film takes. I have to say that most of the ideas going on here are really quite brilliant in their execution. What seems like your run of the mill hostage film ends up becoming this rather operatic battle of wits as each of them learns something new about the other and then uses that knowledge to their own advantage. There is one twist that happens about more than half way through the film that I didn't see coming at all and even though it was in my opinion a little too much, it helped give certain character(s) the needed explanations of why they are doing what they are doing.

Alice isn't the good little hostage she is supposed to be.
Now, I have already given Gemma Arterton praise for what she has done with this role but I feel that I must elaborate on that some more. Watching her bare not just her body but her complete emotional soul as a woman living in hell, I felt as though I was watching an actress taking what was on the page and selling every moment as though it were her last. I never thought she had anything that needed to be proven as an actress but regardless that is exactly what she did here. Anybody that had any qualms about her acting abilities can just shut up and go sit in the corner because she turns in a performance here that is truly riveting and horrifying.

As for her two male co-stars, they are a little more difficult to talk about because mentioning anything in detail about either of them would be going straight into spoiler territory. I can say though that the two of them made a really good duo with Vic being the seasoned veteran whom is ready to do whatever it takes to ensure that he never has to go to jail ever again. And Danny is played perfectly as the younger guy that really can't stomach what they are doing (reasons for which are revealed fairly early on in the film that I still won't ruin for you). The yin and yang of their personalities clashing was matched perfectly with where their relationship goes during the later half of the film.

Danny isn't too happy with what he has found.
I didn't have any real issues with the film in general. It is kind of a bait and switch though because going into the film you are set up to expect one thing and by the half way point it all gets turned on its head. But that is more of a positive here than a negative due how strong those plot shifts and twists are which of course is greatly supported by the amazing cast. I usually am weary of huge plot twists, let alone a series of them but somehow I found myself completely engulfed with the drama that ensues. There really isn't anything wrong here, I suppose you might be turned off by the aforementioned humiliation/torture scenes but you need those in order to understand completely the state of mind that Alice is in when...well, you can see for yourself.

I cannot recommend this film enough, the acting across the board is phenominal, especially Gemma Arterton who turns in an amazing performance and in my eyes anyways sets herself up to be an actress to look out for in the near future. The film works on every level it needs to, there is a constant state of tension as each of the three characters collide with one another and like any good thriller you are constantly left guessing what will happen next. I am always pleasantly surprised when I cannot guess the outcome to a film and this one surprised the hell out of me in that respect. So enough with the waiting...


The Disappearance of Alice Creed [Blu-ray]


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