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Thursday, November 11, 2010


A good old-fashioned nailbiter that keeps you on the edge of your seat, THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED (2009) is one of the most suspenseful and unpredictable thrillers I've seen in quite a while.

The film opens with a brisk montage of former cellmates Danny (Martin Compston) and Vic (Eddie Marsan) working industriously to lay the groundwork for a kidnapping.  Then comes the abduction, with poor Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton) wrested from her life as a millionaire's daughter and gagged, hooded, and handcuffed to a bed in a soundproofed room. 

After getting her all trembling and teary-eyed with threats of death, the kidnappers videotape her pleas to pay the ransom and use the message as a persuader for her rich father to come across with the cash.  All that remains after that is for the deal to go through so Vic and Danny can start a new life elsewhere with money to burn.

But you just know that something's going to go wrong with this seemingly foolproof plan somewhere along the way.  The inevitable glitch comes from out of nowhere and is a genuine surprise, setting the whole scheme unraveling in all sorts of interesting ways.  Danny, the inexperienced one who seems to be developing some sympathy toward Alice, can barely keep it together while the intimidating and at times overbearing Vic is unnervingly businesslike.  They're bound to clash sooner or later, especially when Danny screws up so badly that at one point he allows their captive to get the upper hand.

Strangely enough, in fact, I found that much of the suspense comes from worrying about what will happen to Danny if Vic discovers the mess he's made of things.  Added to that is the knowledge that Alice's fate hinges upon the success of their kidnapping scheme, since Vic is clearly prepared to do away with her at the slightest sign of trouble.  And as things get more and more complicated, with suspicions mounting in all directions, we're never sure what either of them is capable of.

Alice, meanwhile, keeps us guessing as well.  Frightened and docile one moment, she acts swiftly and decisively the first time she gets a chance.  Will she manage to escape, or simply give coldblooded Vic a reason to kill her?  And what, exactly, does Vic plan to do once he does get all that money?

That's all I'm going to say about the story, because surprise is the key to enjoying all the twists and turns that unfold during this often riveting tale.  Each character gains the advantage over the others at one time or another, so the final outcome remains a toss-up until the very end.  Suffice it to say that I was caught up in it from start to finish, and would be hard-pressed to recall a single dull spot. 

Writer-director J Blakeson's uncluttered, straightforward style is ideal for this material, especially since the story is so good that any added visual spice would be superfluous.  Since it's strictly a three-character film, a vital element in its success is the excellence of the performances, most notably Gemma Arterton in a gruelingly emotional role.  Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan also do a great job and are utterly convincing throughout.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  Extras include a director's commentary, a deleted scene, an extended scene, some outtakes, some storyboard-to-film comparisons, and a trailer.

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED isn't a blockbuster or a rollercoaster ride, and it won't blow you through the back wall of the theater (or livingroom).  It's just a smart, solid, well-crafted little thriller that's a lot of fun to watch. 

Buy it at

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