The Disappearance Of Alice Creed - Blu-ray Review

'a perfect example of both the strengths and weaknesses of the traditional three-hander'

J Blakeson's intriguing three-hander which pits the titular Alice (Gemma Arterton) against kidnappers Danny (Martin Compston) and Vic (Eddie Marsan) serves as a perfect example of the sub-genre's strengths and weaknesses. On the one hand, Blakeson gets admirable mileage and tension out of his three stars and limited locations, crafting a twist-happy narrative which has distinct characters, a varied visual style set in none-varied locations and a willingness to try the unexpected with its apparently standard plot.

On the other hand, Blakeson's lack of willingness to show anyone other than these three characters (whether for budgetary reasons, artistic reasons or a mixture of both) shows the problems inherent with this form of genre-limitation. When Vic leaves to phone in the ransom demand you get the impression he's going to be involved in a tense conversation with a terrified Mr. Creed. But we'll never know, because we never see it or hear it. Opportunities like this are missed throughout The Disappearance Of Alice Creed, all because Blakeson is devoted to his limitations, embracing them in an admirable but constricting way.

What he misses out on in terms of other characters, Blakeson gets in variety from his star turns. Arterton as Alice is magnetic and occasionally moving. Obviously terrified by her ordeal, Blakeson isn't afraid to also present her as a rounded individual on occasion. As such, she's shown as selfish, even cruel, developing beyond the normal damsel in distress archetype to something much more interesting although, as Blakeson's final shot roles, you get the impression she's less concrete than her exterior suggests.

Marsan is similarly strong as Vic but Compston, in the best role as the subservient, conflicted, Danny proves less adapt, changing character traits on a whim and turning in a performance that, whilst necessarily unpredictable, is also difficult to get a good hold on in any tonal sense.

Blakeson's final scenes are chilling, lending the film a completely open-ended air which draws you in like an oozing sink hole. The writer/director's penchant for the uncomfortable and unpredictable might not always be easy to watch but it is easy to admire and his grasp of tone and pacing on such limited measures is pleasing to watch even if his film is, at times, much harder to enjoy.

Look further...

'too cramped and grimy and high-pitched - a lot of screaming and yelling and sobbing' - The Ludovico Technique, C+


  1. This one didn't come to the local Vue but it raised a lot of disputes in The Guardian re the portrayal of violence to women. You didn't comment on this so I wonder if the criticism was over stated. What do you think?

  2. The performances are all great, and the opening sequence is one of the best five minutes of cinema all year.

    Overall I thought this was a great film, but you're right in that it could have benefited from expanding it's scope just a little. I also think it had a few too many twists for it's own good.

    @John There was definitely some moments that were uncomfortable to watch in that regard, but I'm not convinced it was gratuitous or unnecessary to the plot. And without giving anything about the film away, I will say that there is more to the Alice character than simply being a helpless victim.

  3. John - Largely I agree with what Tom says above. There is violence against Alice in the film and some of it is depicted with unflinching depravity but it is in-keeping with Danny and Vic's characters, rather than just there for the sake of it. I certainly didn't come away from it thinking that the film had a misogynistic agenda and I wouldn't say it was glorified in any way.

  4. Tom - I agree on all points really. The opening five minutes were fantastic... arguably too fantastic. I'd say there's nothing that beats them anywhere else in the film and that felt like a bit of a let down. Once I'd accepted that there were going to be a plethora of twists they didn't really bother me but yes, there is a middle segment where things just keep getting conveniently revealed!