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The Disappearance of Alice Creed DVD Review

The Disappearance of Alice Creed movie poster The Disappearance of Alice Creed

US Theatrical Release: August 6, 2010 / Running Time: 100 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: J. Blakeson

Cast: Gemma Arterton (Alice Creed), Martin Compston (Danny), Eddie Marsan (Vic)

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The Disappearance of Alice Creed is economical filmmaking. There are just three characters. There is one primary location.
Several stretches pass with little or no dialogue. It's the kind of thing that could easily be a manageable film student project, but in fact it is the polished feature debut of British writer/director J. Blakeson.

The film opens with one of those dialogically sparse scenes. Two quiet men are hard at work. They pick up supplies from a hardware store and put them to use, barely stopping to eat. It's clear they're not just in construction. They're soundproofing a van and renovating a secret fortress. Though the title doesn't appear on screen until the film's end, knowing it beforehand gives you a good idea of what these men are up to. Indeed, they abduct the eponymous young target Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton), strip her, change her into a purple sweatsuit, tie her up, handcuff her, gag her, and throw a bag over her head.

Vic (Eddie Marsan) gets all up in Danny's (Martin Compston) business to emphasize the importance of eating. Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton) is bound, cuffed, gagged, slapped, and inexplicably forced to wear a purple sweatsuit. Still, this isn't a "Saw"-type torture movie.

The men are careful and precise, especially the quick-tempered older one, Vic (Eddie Marsan), who seems to be a seasoned pro as he coaches the Scottish younger kidnapper, Danny (Martin Compston), on when to eat, when to sleep, and, above all else, how not to get cold feet over what they're doing. What they're doing is trying to get a big payday off Ms. Creed, or rather her wealthy father, whom they expect to provide the 2 million pound ransom they're asking for.

The film is designed so that we are able to muster a bit of sympathy for the captors besides their demeaned, humiliated victim. Disappearance changes our understanding of its plot more than once, as it reveals new facets of the connections between the three characters and how their private plans differ from their public ones. The twists are calculated and self-aware, but they are effective at rewriting dynamics and forcing us to reconsider our allegiances.

This thriller is effective in general. There is real tautness to it and more than enough material to sustain such a lean premise. Suspense is regularly generated. Character behavior and motivations may not always be absolutely believable, such as when Vic becomes so suspicious as to make hiding an emptied handgun round the world's most impossible and terrifying challenge. But the turns keep you glued and guessing just how this will turn out.

Danny (Martin Compston) and Vic (Eddie Marsan) scout out their assigned drop-off location in one of the film's few outdoor scenes. Alice (Gemma Arterton) zips up her purple sweatshirt, ending her second contribution to the nudity that includes all three of the film's actors.

There is something inherently appealing about such an efficient crime drama.
Criminals are generally not all that fun to spend time with. But this business-minded pair intrigues and the ex-cons don't wear out their welcome. There is enough mystery to wonder how and why it has come to this for them.

The acting impresses, as it would have to in a cast just three deep. Though Arterton may be the biggest name here, she doesn't have as wide a range to convey. The film spends most of its time with the complex abductors, which considering the alternative (being tied to a bed with a bag over your head) makes a great deal of sense.

Blakeson delivers a formidable debut, more for his directing than his writing (which doesn't entirely stand up to scrutiny). Unfortunately, hardly anyone knows that at this point, with the film being restricted to merely twelve North American theaters in a late summer run that earned it just $166 thousand. At least the budget can't have been too much more than that.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed DVD cover art - click to buy the DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled or Captioned
Release Date: November 23, 2010
Suggested Retail Price: $29.97
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($34.98 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

The film might not have cost much, but that doesn't show in the DVD's terrific 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. From what I've seen, Anchor Bay just doesn't disappoint in the picture department and this clean, sharp presentation is no exception. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack isn't as striking, but it provides some good atmosphere and no glaring problems.

If Eddie Marsan is laughing, you know you're watching the Outtakes reel. Vic and Danny eat their sandwiches at greater proximity in the film than the storyboards foresaw. The DVD main menu's image of Alice with the gun is a semi-spoiler, but a similar pose adorns the back of the case.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The extras begin with a major feature strangely relegated to the Set Up menu. It's an audio commentary by writer/director J. Blakeson. Quite wet behind the ears, he is eager to talk over his debut and remains moderately interesting as he discusses his influences, the writing and casting processes, and his efforts to surprise.

Although the track no doubt would have been stronger with the three actors joining him, it's all right as is.

A single deleted scene called "Phones" (1:42) adds dialogue and some cell phone actions to an existing kidnappers bit. The extended scene "Alice Gets the Gun" (7:40) elongates a key sequence without much effect. Both are presented with explanatory optional J. Blakeson audio commentary.

A reel of Outtakes (4:16) truly collects bloopers, something not often seen on a dramatic film. It's largely comprised of character-breaking laughter in amusing contrast to the film's entirely straight-faced tone.

As you can guess, a Storyboard Comparison (5:30) gives us a split-screen comparing preproduction pencil planning to actual shots in the film. Making it of particular relevance is that most of the footage comes from the film's nonverbal opening scenes.

The extras conclude with Disappearance's 80-second American theatrical trailer, which actually invents a fourth character not in the film.

The disc opens with trailers for Altitude, I Spit on Your Grave, and "Spartacus: Blood and Sand": The Complete First Season, none of which are menu-accessible.

Besides the scored main screen, the simple menus set slanted static character shots to silence.

"The Disappearance of Alice Creed" could have been called "Two Crooks and a Girl", but where the supernatural overtones in that title?

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Disappearance of Alice Creed works as a film and not just as an exercise in basic, economical filmmaking. Without giving us more than we need, the movie holds our attention, generates ample suspense, and keeps us guessing. The thrills it offers are not routine mainstream ones, which may disappoint those wanting something more familiar, but I can't think of any reason someone would want that. The DVD could use a making-of featurette, but it otherwise is everything it should be. You'll have to hunt it out, but this may be worth a look.

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Reviewed November 20, 2010.



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