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The Disappearance Of Alice Creed
(2009)

Director: J. Blakeson  
Cast:
Gemma Arterton, Martin Compston, Eddie Marsan


If you have been reading the various reviews on this web site for quite some time now, more likely than not you have come to at least one certain conclusion. That conclusion is that I don't follow the norm in a lot of ways. I tend to watch movies, either for this web site or for my own pleasure, that are more obscure in nature. And pretty much all the work that's been placed into this web site is work that I have done completely on my own. But it's not just with movies and web site work that I put on the persona of a lone wolf. In my private life I also do a lot of things on my own. I decide what food to buy when I go to the supermarket, how much to pay my bills when I get them in the mail, and what I want to do when I have some spare time and I don't feel like watching movies. Yes, doing pretty much everything on my own certainly is a lot of responsibility, but at the same time I enjoy being in power and having control of my life. And while I admit that I can't predict the future, I fully expect that I will be thinking this way in the decades that are to follow from this point of time. Believe me, having as great an imagination as I have told you about in previous reviews, I have brought up in my mind every possible future situation I could be in to see if I would still want to do it on my own. One of those imagined situations I have imagined myself being in is criminal activity. Now, I am currently dead set against getting involved in crimes, and I imagine I'll still be this way in the future. But when the idea of getting involved in crime pops up in my head, my first instinct is to do the crime on my own. If I were an amoral person, I would do the crime on my own so I could later tell myself, "You did it all by yourself, and you got away with it!" That's something many criminals can't say.

However, at the same time I am thinking something along those lines, additional thoughts come into my head, thoughts that quickly extinguish any idea of pulling off a crime on my own. I would have to be absolutely certain that I have planned everything right so that the crime could not be traced back to me. Also, if something unplanned happened during the crime, I would have to be quick on my feet and smart enough to deal with the unexpected. I don't trust myself that much, so from that alone it would appear a life of crime would not be for me. On the other hand, what about pairing up with another individual to pull off a crime? When you bring up that possibility, the advantages quickly come to mind. You would have a second perspective, which could come in handy with such things as making a foolproof plan or what to do if the unexpected happened. And having an extra pair of hands would be handy whether you had to have a gun on a bank teller while scooping up cash, or digging a makeshift grave. But if you were to think about it more, there are some potential problems working with a partner in crime. For one thing, if you and your partner were to pull off a crime for personal gain, you would have to split what you gained in the crime. But even if the two of you could live with that, there are many potential pitfalls before you reach that stage. Can the two of you agree on who does what in the crime? What if your partner has a panic attack while the crime is being done? And if the unexpected happens during the crime, could the two of you come to some kind of agreement as to what to do?

Potential problems like these further my resolve not to get involved in any sort of criminal activity, whether alone or with a partner. And I strongly suspect that even if you joined up with more than one person, the number of additional potential problems would make up for any possible The Disappearance Of Alice Creedproblems that are resolved with additional people. Anyway, while I am a lone wolf in most aspects of life, I have to admit that quite often I enjoy watching individuals joining together in an attempt to pull off a crime. When there are several people involved, it gives me a good mental workout, making me imagine what I would do if I were one of the criminals. Would I do the same, or something different? And when the criminals inevitably clash during the crime, I greatly enjoy the suspense as they struggle to come to some kind of agreement, as well as a solution. When I found The Disappearance Of Alice Creed, I had a good idea I had found a good example of such things - namely because the front and back of the DVD box were plastered with printed raves from multiple critics. (Warning, spoilers are ahead.) The movie concerns a criminal scheme hatched by two men, Vic (Marsdan, Sherlock Holmes) and Danny (Compston, Doomsday). The two men's scheme is to kidnap a young woman named Alice Creed (Arterton, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) and extract a fat ransom from her rich father. It doesn't take them long to execute the kidnapping part of their plan - the first few minutes of the movie, as a matter of fact. They bring back Alice to their hideout, blindfolding her and tying her to a bed in the middle of a room that's been made soundproof. The plan seems to be unfolding smoothly, but there are secrets that threaten to destroy the scheme. It is revealed that Danny gave the idea to Vic for their kidnap victim to be Alice, for personal reasons he dare not tell Vic. And Danny, in his efforts to keep Alice cooperating, dares not tell her a secret connection he has with Vic, his former cellmate in jail. With secrets like those threatening to get out, plus the perhaps inevitable occurrence of unplanned incidents happening, will the ransom ever be collected? And will Alice be unharmed and eventually rescued?

The basic idea behind The Disappearance Of Alice Creed - a kidnapping scheme that soon provides complications both for the kidnappers and kidnap victim - is not a new one, as you probably know. In fact, it's been done to death in both movies and television shows. So you might be wondering if this particular execution could possible bring freshness to an old formula. The pleasant surprise is that the movie proves to be very effective. The movie's director, J. Blakeson (who also wrote the screenplay) manages to keep the audience's interest up for the movie's entire one hundred minute running time. He does this in a number of ways. First, he grabs the audience's attention right from the beginning, by showing the characters of Vic and Danny silently doing a number of things without explanation, from stealing a van and changing its license plates, to fixing up a dilapidated apartment with soundproof walls in one room. These activities intrigued me, and wanting an explanation, I kept watching. Of course, it's soon revealed that their activities are part of a kidnapping scheme, but there is still some mystery after they kidnap the previously unseen Alice. I was now wondering who she was, and why the two men had kidnapped her. Eventually we in the audience are given answers to those questions, but things do not become cut and dried from that point on. Before that point, and long after that point, the movie throws in a number of unexpected complications for both the two kidnappers and their kidnap victim. What they are I would not dare to reveal, except to say that although a list of all these complications at first glance might seem a little hard to swallow - all these things happening to these characters? - their actual executions are made to come across as both very plausible and extremely tense. It didn't take long for me to seriously wonder what would happen in the end to all three characters, since I completely bought this situation. Anything could happen, and I was riveted right to the end.

Writer/director J. Blakeson certainly shows in this movie that he knows how to make some truly nail-biting moments. But it isn't just that he can come up with ideas for harrowing situations. He also makes sure that the audience is invested in the characters that are in these situations. After the first time I watched the movie, I read some reviews of the movie from other critics, and there were some complaints about the characters, the specific complaint that viewers would find themselves not caring about the characters. It is true that none of the three characters is really all that sympathetic, even kidnap victim Alice. But despite this, the characters are interesting, even if you are not rooting for any of them to succeed. The characters are interesting because all three of them happen to be extremely intelligent. In other kidnap movies, characters don't often ask the logical questions that come when a questionable situation or conflict arises. But these three individuals do. More often than not, I was placing myself in a situation onscreen and thinking about what I would say if I were one of the characters, and the actual characters then said what I was thinking seconds later. For example, after Vic and Danny have Alice kidnapped and tied up in their soundproof room, they settle for dinner. Danny has no appetite, and Vic then says, "If you're not hungry, it means that something's not right. It means you're thinking too much about whether we've done everything right. Or whether we've made a mistake along the way that'll get us caught and get us twenty years in jail." Although there are subsequently no moments of perception that match that intense analysis, all three characters do show in their actions and words a number of times when they have clearly thought things through like you or I, or have had enough experience to make them instantly come to a logical conclusion about something.

Certainly the three characters have been written in a way to make them interesting, even if we wouldn't want to meet any of them in real life. But what helps to really sell these characters are the actors who play them. All three actors not only have to convince the audience that their characters are believably smart people, but they also have to go though some very tough situations that would challenge any actor (Arterton, for example, has to go through her character being stripped nude several times.) But as it turns out, all three actors give solid performances, helping to make their characters people who are determined, yet believable and vulnerable. Some credit has to go once again to J. Blakeson; I am sure that he not only cast these three particular actors for their more than competent acting chops, but also because these three individuals look more like ordinary people instead of movie stars. It gives the events of the movie an extra authenticity, with no flash or ego getting in the way. Anyway, for the last two and a half paragraphs, I have been saying nothing but good things about The Disappearance Of Alice Creed, so you may be wondering if there is anything negative to reveal about the movie. Well, I have one quibble, though it's a minor one. J. Blakeson, while in the director's chair, creates an eerie-feeling world where there are no signs at all of other people... for the most part. In the first ten minutes of the movie, there are a couple of brief shots where we see anonymous passer-bys in the background. I think that if Blakeson had shot the movie completely with no other people aside from Alice, Danny, and Vic in sight, the total feel of the movie would have been a hair better. With no one else in sight, it would have really made the three characters on their own with clearly no one else that could help or interfere. Still, no movie is completely perfect, and this tiny flaw won't stop you from enjoying the movie as a whole.

(Posted January 25, 2016)

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See also: Death Game, Executive Target, The Kidnapping Of The President

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