J Blakeson's kidnap thriller is a textbook example of how to do a lot with a little
The Disappearance of Alice Creed
Cert: 18, 100 mins
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Eddie Marsan, Martin Compston
Any film that begins with the main characters strolling through a DIY megastore, intently filling their trolly with saws, drills, shovels, soundproofing sheets and bin-bags, inevitably poses the following, horrifying, question: “Oh god, they haven’t made a film version of Home Improvement have they?”
Thankfully, in the case of impressive Brit thriller The Disappearance of Alice Creed, ex-cons Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston are just there for the other main reason people do DIY shopping in films: they’re about to do something horrific. Thank the lord.
In this case, as they also check in at the lock section and their local branch of Dreams, they’re intent on a professional kidnapping of the titular Alice, played by Gemma Arterton with a gag in her mouth – a situation some might describe as a perfect piece of casting, not least for the gag – and have soon bundled her back to a specially prepared flat. She has a rich father, and the pair want £2m for her safe return.
What’s remarkable about this debut from writer-director J Blakeson is that, despite that pretty much being it in terms of characters and locations, Alice Creed maintains a tension and credibility through its various twists which should, under the rules of bad British thrillers, have either veered into the terminally dull (a stagey actor’s project) or the ridiculously silly (each twist desperately trying to top the last) by the half-way point.
It’s a small film, but a perfectly formed one, done with some style. Blakeson is an expert at building tension in small moments – a glance of realisation, a gesture that’s slightly off, a suspect tone – rather than showy set-pieces. Imagine Misery crossed with the the early Coen brothers of Blood Simple and you’ll be in the right ball park. On this evidence, Blakeson could well be one to watch. We may even discover his first name.