The Disappearance of Alice Creed is a well-made genre film. It’s essentially a three-character chamber piece with 75% of the film taking place in one central location. The film starts with assured confidence as the two kidnappers, played solidly by Martin Compston and quite brilliantly by Eddie Marsan, toil through a tight 10-minute montage in preparation for the kidnapping, with only a single line or two of spoken dialogue. The film is focused and spare throughout, and certainly functions as a capable calling card for director Blakeson, who works very well with his actors and showcases an efficient visual style.
While Compston holds his own, the real stars of the film are Marsan and Gemma Arterton. Arterton is simply beyond gorgeous; she possesses the beauty of a young Bardot, seeming to taunt the world with the unnaturalness of its very existence. She appeared briefly in Casino Royale as the doomed Strawberry Fields and made an immediate impact on audiences, then starred this summer in Clash of the Titans as Io and Prince of Persia as the princess Tamina. Yet despite her mind-blowing physical perfection, she was raised as a blue collar, working-class Brit, and has both the physical grit and determination and genuine acting chops required of her role here. It’s a nice showcase for an actress who could easily be typecast into parts where very little acting is required, and it’s refreshing to see someone just out of acting school who’s already made it as big as she has then turn around and embrace no-budget filmmaking and a risky role and bravely just go for it. As for Marsan, he’s quickly become one of England’s finest working character actors, showing up in recent Mike Leigh films Vera Drake and Happy Go-Lucky; Hollywood blockbusters Hancock, Miami Vice, Mission: Impossible III, and V for Vendetta; indies The Illusionist and The Red Riding Trilogy, and playing a spot-on John Houseman in Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles. Here Marsan elevates his game, deftly balancing the focused vigor of his character with an emotionally vulnerable side, proving that he should be getting even larger and more complex roles than he already is.
The film moves along at a steady pace and features a fair number of twists and turns, ending with a nice little flourish. But it still remains a genre picture that brings nothing new to the table. It’s watchable largely because of the performances; with lesser actors it would have been quite a bore. It’s certainly solid and worth a look, but if you’re searching for a gritty crime import in the next few weeks, you’re better off going to see Australia’s Animal Kingdom.