Monday, June 21, 2010
Sydney Film Festival: The Disappearance of Alice Creed
J Blakeson’s feature debut is a well-conceived and impressively accomplished thriller. Eddie Marsan (Happy Go Lucky) and Martin Compston (Red Road) star as paroled crims Vic and Danny, who cooked up this sophisticatedly simple plan during their stretch together in the big house. They are joined by blockbuster damsel du jour Gemma Arterton (Clash of the Titans, Prince of Persia), mercifully counter programming as the titular kidnapping victim, who stripped and splayed out on a bed is clearly terrified and mortified, but not entirely helpless.
Opening with a stylish, dialogue free montage of the pair’s preparations, The Disappearance of Alice Creed continues at a good click; the plot punctuated with well-placed twists that both develop each character and add to the increasingly foreboding atmosphere. Blakeson has also shot the screenplay through with black comedy, siphoning off a bit of the pressure, while revealing himself a director who is encouragingly aware of entertaining his audience.
The film has tonal hints of Danny Boyle’s late 1990s comedic thriller A Life Less Ordinary, though Blackson eschews magical realism in favour of gritty, claustrophobic production design and tautly skewed morals. And if Compston doesn’t quite have the presence or charming appeal of Ewan McGregor, Marsan and Arterton each generate disturbingly gripping performances. The result is an assured and mature first feature, which makes the most of its no doubt modest budget and serves up some classic thrills alongside a tantalising emotional quandary.
***Update: watch the brilliant opening 5 minutes