Monday, August 02, 2010

Brit Thriller: The Disappearance of Alice Creed

Two average blokes at a big box hardware store might not appear sinister, but their shopping list is a bit suspicious. How much soundproofing material do regular folks really need? So begins J Blakeson’s dark little kidnapping thriller, The Disappearance of Alice Creed (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Alice Creed is estranged from her wealthy father, but since she is his only child, Vic and Danny are sure he will pay up. Vic is definitely the senior partner, calling the shots and dominating the younger man. It was Danny though, who suggested Creed as their potential victim. Despite their meticulous plans, the uncooperative Creed is a destabilizing presence in their midst. Naturally, in this taut three-hander, everyone has their secrets. Just who exactly is playing who, will be revealed in a series of revelations and betrayals that are surprisingly engaging.

Indeed, the twists and turns of the set-up are quite well executed and while the final act proceeds as it logically must, Blakeson effectively maintains the intensity as the film plays out the string. Fortunately, he is aided tremendously by the small but talented cast. Though she has been relatively good in awful movies (St. Trinian’s for example and the disappointing Clash of the Titans reboot), former Bond girl Gemma Arterton is surprisingly compelling as Creed. Her reactions are always utterly convincing and logical, regardless of the film’s convoluted circumstances, which is why it works so well as a thriller.

Perhaps even more unexpectedly, Eddie Marsan (recognizable from Sherlock Holmes, Red Riding, and a host of other films) turns out to be a great big-screen heavy as Vic. Indeed, he has that menacing charisma all memorable movie villains must have. The weak link would therefore be Martin Compston as Danny, but that is largely a function of his character’s submissive nature.

Though it only features three characters largely confined to a handful of claustrophobic sets, Disappearance never feels stagey. Rather, its economy concentrates the dramatic tension. Cinematographer Philipp Blaumbach gives it all a slick, cinematic look that also really distinguishes the film from workaday indie thrillers.

Nicely twisted, Blakeson’s story definitely gets nasty, but never to an extent that would ruin the fun. Nodding to other classic thrillers in ways that would be spoilers to reveal, Disappearance is a solidly entertaining British noir. It opens this Friday (8/6) at the Village East.