Don't Overlook It: The Disappearance of Alice Creed
By Tom Houseman
October 27, 2010
Every week there are great movies released in theaters, but they get no attention and never have a chance to reach an audience. They are rarely released on more than ten screens, only in New York City and Los Angeles, and have no advertising, but they are works of art that deserve to be seen. That’s why I started this column. It’s a way for me to spread the gospel about the great independent films, foreign films, and documentaries that don’t get the attention they deserve from the movie-going public. So while you’re killing time between screenings of Paranormal Activity 2 and Saw 3D, you can find out about some great movies that aren’t getting talked about on Entertainment Tonight or, really, anywhere else… ever. Until now!
It’s always fun going into a movie not really knowing what it’s about. In our age of media information overload, where overly obsessed writers divulge every piece of information about every movie on websites like [CENSORED BY EDITOR], this is an almost impossible goal, but entering a theater without any knowledge of what you are about to experience can be incredible. Over the last decade this has only happened to me three times, and fortunately all of the movies are great. Added to the list that includes Rocket Science and Edmond is the British dramatic thriller The Disappearance of Alice Creed.
Part of the joy of seeing this movie is that I had absolutely no idea of what was going to happen, so I am going to provide as little plot information as possible so that when you see this movie (and I assume you see every movie I recommend), you will share in that experience. So here is my plot summary: two men kidnap Alice Creed. That’s all the bait you’re getting fishies, until you see the movie.
I will expound, however, upon the many qualities that make this movie so stunningly good. For me, the two most apt comparisons for The Disappearance of Alice Creed are Hard Candy and Crank. Like those two films, this film holds absolutely nothing back, attacking the viewer with a barrage of horrifying imagery. You don’t have the time to get your butt into a comfortable position on the seat before you are forced to the edge, and the suspense never lets up. There are multiple twists and turns that are completely unexpected (no, I won’t give you any hints; it’ll be better if you experience them fresh and clueless like I did) and the film flies through its brisk 96 minutes, giving you precious few moments to catch your breath.
However, without great performances, this movie could come off as arthouse-style torture porn. Fortunately, the film’s three leads are superb, giving some of the best performances of the year. Eddie Marsan isn’t a name you’re likely to recognize, but you’ve surely seen him in Sherlock Holmes, and as the misanthropic driving instructor in Happy-Go-Lucky. Given a starring role, Marsan shows just how remarkably talented he is. He takes an incredibly complex character and always makes him feel like a real person, someone you can simultaneously hate and pity. A dominating, terrifying presence in the film, Marsan is able to shine in a performance reminiscent of Tom Hardy’s similarly overlooked performance in Bronson.
But the true linchpin of the film is the title character, played by Gemma Arterton. You might know Arterton as Quantum of Solace’s Bond girl, or as Jake Gyllenhaal’s love interest in The Prince of Persia, and perhaps you don’t have the highest opinion of her as an actress. But my God, she is truly phenomenal here. Arterton is given a phenomenally difficult task and proves herself to be a completely fearless performer. Watching what happens to her during the course of the film can be difficult, but she never backs down, and her performance makes the film. Hopefully she will continue to choose parts like this, rather than the Hollywood tripe she is known for.
I could continue to rant about the performance of Martin Compston, the tight script and the superb direction, but I’m afraid that I might give something away, so I’ll stop now. Sadly, I only caught this film at the last second before it Disappeared from theaters (clever wordplay, right?), so you won’t get the same opportunity. But get your Netflix queues ready and start lining up outside of your nearest Redbox, because you are going to want to see this movie as soon as it comes out on DVD.