The Disappearance of Alice Creed
starring Gemma Arterton, Martin Compston, & Eddie Marsan
written & directed by J. Blakes
Maple Pictures (2010)
It's hard to recall a movie about a kidnapping that didn't romanticize or sugarcoat the actual criminal act. J. Blakes offers a film that is much sharper edged and remorseless in its portrayal of abduction. Sure, it's still a thriller that borders on exploitation at times, but if you want to see a kidnapping that instills genuine disgust for the abductors and fear for the abducted, you'll want to watch Alice Creed.
The movie begins from the perspective of the two abductors preparing an apartment in some unnamed part of London, boarding up windows, soundproofing walls, and fitting a bed with rope and shackles. Then they go out and get their target, Alice Creed (Arterton). The plan is simple and executed with a cold and detached efficiency. She's gagged, bound, and blindfolded, then tied to the bed, stripped, photographed, redressed in sweats, and left alone in her "cell" while the ransom note is sent replete with photos.
The two men (Compston and Marsan) are convinced the plan will work, but must rigidly remain focused or risk fouling up in some way that will get them arrested or killed. While one shows an aggressive and dominant attitude towards the situation, the other seems to have trepidations about what they are doing. It causes friction, but it's when they're separated that the real trouble brews. And when Alice finds an opening to break free and find help, that's when the stakes rise even higher.
Seeing Arterton's performance is difficult to watch at times, as the fear she exudes is palpable. The humiliation and powerlessness of being stripped and tied to a bed, even being forced to piss in a bottle while still tied to the bed, is an absolutely cringe-inducing ordeal to sit through as the audience. Compared to the abysmal Prince of Persia, which she also starred in, this movie shows her as a standout actress, and not just a pretty girl at the mercy of her captors.
As for the two men in the film, they do a fair job as well, and the interplay between them is rivoting. Suspicions mount and betrayals are formed. And what might otherwise be convoluted comes off as very organic.
There is one big flaw to the film, in my view, and that pertains to a key moment in the first act. I don't want to spoil it, but I will, so if you don't want to know then I suggest you stop reading. You see, Alice manages to get the jump on one of her captors after he unties her so she can defecate in a bucket. She gets his gun and is ready to shoot him and make a break for it, but when the guy takes off his mask and reveals himself as her boyfriend, Danny. He orchestrated the whole kidnapping and ransom to bilk her father of millions--money she's been cut off from--so they can run away together. But the other guy doesn't know they are together, and he's returned to the apartment, so she has to get back in bed and play along with Danny's plan or the whole plan will blow up in his face. And she relents. She gives him the gun and allows herself to be tied and gagged again, so the ransom can be paid, Danny can double-cross his partner, and the lovers can start over somewhere else.
When she decides to play along with Danny's repugnant plan, it sucked me right out of the movie. For two reasons: 1) I doubt any woman--or man for that matter--would not want to escape from that apartment immediately, and even shoot their lover in the scrotum while doing so; 2) she still attempts to escape later in the movie, thus making her look like a complete idiot because she's in an even worse situation as a result of waiting, when she could have made a clean getaway the first time by shooting both captors and walking right out of the building. As a matter of fact, now that I think about it, that's a damned infuriating plot hole.
But, if you can force yourself to ignore the logic of that one huge plot point, the movie is a very engrossing experience. If you can't get over that hump though, the rest of the movie is a waste of time and will only piss you off in the end.