Film Review: The Disappearance of Alice Creed

2010 – 100mn - 18

Directed by J Blakeson. Starring Gemma Arterton, Eddie Marsan, Martin Compston.

Review by Walter Nichols

TWO men kidnap a young woman, strip her naked, tie her to a bed in a soundproofed room, gag her, and put a bag on her head. She is the daughter of a very rich man, and they are demanding a �2m ransom in exchange for her life. Over the next 36 hours or so, the two men go in and out of trust with one another, as Alice Creed – for this is the young woman’s name – tries to manipulate them into letting her go.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed is, quite clearly, meant to be a tense, taut thriller. So it’s probably not the best sign that I haven’t been to a screening where the audience laughed so much since The Hangover.

From the very first scene, in which the kidnappers are seen in a home improvement store, grim-faced, conspicuously buying a saw, soundproofing equipment, locks, and binding rope; all the way to the predictable, plot hole-ridden ending, Alice Creed is unintentionally hilarious. It’s cringe-worthy and awkward, and takes itself so seriously it only highlights how daft it all is.

The film is quite beautifully if unoriginally shot and Gemma Arterton is both very brave and very good in a role that requires her to spend the whole film tied to a bed, often naked and routinely being humiliated. But the writing’s wooden, the characters are inconsistent, and writer-director J Blakeson seems to think a “twist” actually means “a nonsensical and outrageous turn in the plot, if possible involving a character directly contradicting everything they’ve said and done so far”. Eddie Marsan tries desperately hard to be sinister – clenching, mugging and coming off comically over-intense. He’s usually very good but watching him in this is like watching Daffy Duck trying to prove he can do serious drama: he looks like he’s holding in gas, and when he talks it’s loud and there’s a lot of spitting. Martin Compston is just not very believable no matter what he does, which is more than a little problem as the logic of the whole film depends on his character’s shifts and changes.

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Because the film is a three-hander that pretty much all takes place in one nondescript location, there’s absolutely no context to any of the action either, which means it’s not a comment or a reflection on anything. What it ends up being is two idiots in a room being abusive to a kidnapped girl, and that’s it. It doesn’t really ratchet up from there. No one outwits anybody else – if anything, the plot advances as the characters out-thick one another.

It’s so bad it’s almost – almost – good. But even at a tight 100 minutes, Alice Creed overstays its welcome, every scene (for the sake of “austerity” and “realism”) painfully drawn out for what seems like hours, and it remains just that: very, very bad.

Star rating: 1 � out of 5 stars