The Disappearance of Alice Creed

September 7, 2010

It is at least fair if nothing else for an audience to expect to take something from a film, irregardless of what form that something might come in.  If there is indeed something that an audience might take from The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009) it might be that sometimes content that is better suited to legitimate theatre is produced for film. A “claustrophobic” drama of sorts, Alice Creed attempts to recreate the type of intimate performance driven work that traditionally comes from a  Samuel Beckett style of stage theatre. Unfortunately for Creed, for this style of performance driven drama to be truly successful there must be an incredibly high level of tension created for its audience; something sadly lost in the translation from page to screen.

For all intents and purposes the idea is actually quite good: a young woman is abducted by two profession criminals who intend to hold her for ransom from her incessantly wealthy father. The focus is, in the first instance, placed heavily upon attention to detail and in this the film succeeds opening with a beautifully, carefully constructed sequence in which the two men “set-up” to stage a kidnapping. But the initial pace of the film is, disappointingly, unsustainable for the feature-length of the film and moreover for the type of “twist and turn” content that follows.

Without giving away too many of what might be considered “plot developments”, it is fair to say that the “relationship developments/revelations” between the two kidnappers, Danny (Martin Compston) and Vic (Eddie Marsan) and their female victim, Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton), are the lynchpin upon which the success or failure of this film ultimately rests. At first these are provocative and even a little original, but as they continue to pile upon transparent layers of unnecessary and often unconvincing back story the tower falls into a mess of implausibility. Add to this a couple of average if not poor performances by Arterton and Marsan and you have yourself an hour and thirty-six minutes of awkwardness and heavy sighing.

There were moments when it almost felt as though something a little exciting or deeper might be boiling beneath the surface and indeed I contemplated a Freudian reading of the psyche as the film’s true exploration but ultimately the reading fails. Comparably it seemed too at one point that perhaps the insipid lies and betrayal was class commentary against the unfair discriminatory role of inheritance laws in the UK, but again, this reading eventually fails. Beautifully shot and formally competent there is talent amongst the filmmakers and perhaps, with more comprehensive content, a decent drama would have ensued. The film best surmises itself through Vic’s dialogue when he barks at Danny “I don’t want a narrative.” No, but maybe the audience might.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday September 9 and is distributed through Icon.

Written by Tara Judah for Liminal Vision.

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