Santa Cruz Good Times

Friday
Sep 19th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Folie à Trois

film_AliceCreed1‘Alice Creed’ a gutsy, audacious three-character thriller
There are few things more exciting in moviegoing than finding a truly original film by someone you’ve never heard of before. Think back to the first time you saw Christopher Nolan’s Memento, say, or Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects. Remember that feeling of, “Wow, where did this guy come from?” You may get that same hit of awe, coupled with a gleeful sense of discovery, when watching The Disappearance of Alice Creed, a gutsy, disturbing, scrupulously well-honed little thriller from rookie British auteur J Blakeson.

It’s not that Blakeson’s invigorating debut feature resembles either of these complex predecessors in plot or structure. On the face of it Alice Creed seems to be bare-bones storytelling at its most basic, even simplistic: a three-character drama about a crime, its perpetrators, and their victim. But a world of complications lurk beneath this surface, revealed in ever more subversive and flabbergasting increments as Blakeson spins a tale that’s equal parts noir suspense thriller, psychological drama, and fierce morality play. But fasten your seatbelts; you’re in for a feverish ride.

A reader once wrote me that movie critics should never review more than the first 15 minutes of a film, for fear of spoiling the plot. With Alice Creed, even that would be giving away too much. Suffice it to say that Blakeson sets up his premise without ceremony or preamble in the opening minutes as two men who barely utter a word to each other go about their efficient preparations. We see them stealing a van, soundproofing a bare room in a cinderblock building, buying and building a bed (and bolting it to the floor), fastening industrial locks to the door, laying out the tools of their trade—rope, handcuffs, a revolver.

Clearly, someone is up to no good. But before we even know who’s who or what’s what, the anonymous plotters are dragging a young woman into the flat, bound and gagged, with a bag over her head, squirming and struggling for her life with every breath. Her daddy, it develops, has money, and their plan is to ransom her for a fast $2 million. They tie her down to the bed, take a digital photo of an identifying tattoo on her arm, and send it out in an email from their laptop. And that’s the last time anything expected occurs as Blakeson’s story speeds down a taut and twisty path to its harrowing conclusion.

Blakeson’s cast couldn’t be any better. Foremost is veteran character actor Eddie Marsan. (You may recognize him as Inspector Lestrade from the recent Sherlock Holmes, or the hapless,  tightly-wound driving instructor in Happy-Go-Lucky.) As Vic, the elder of the kidnappers, Marsan conveys a man of volatile feelings furiously clamped down beneath a carefully-tooled façade of efficient impassivity. Marsan is scary every second he’s onscreen, yet he imbues his character with faint grace notes of courtliness and melancholy.

The young Scots actor, Martin Compston, plays Vic’s baby-faced sidekick, Danny. Apparently less schooled in crime than his partner, and more conflicted (“Maybe your conscience is eating away at your conviction,” sneers Vic), Danny is the story’s wild card in many ways, none of them predictable. And Compton plays him with just the right mix of naiveté and steely desperation.

As their designated victim, the eponymous Alice, Gemma Arterton gives the movie a sense of free-fall recklessness. Physically outgunned by the men, we see her calculating every second, making sure every spare word and gesture allowed to her count, struggling to piece together any kind of advantage. It’s intriguing that although the film begins from the perspective of the kidnappers, much of the plot evolves from Alice’s viewpoint; we don’t know any more than she does about what’s going on, and most of what little exposition Blakeson provides comes out in terse dialogue that Alice pries out of her captors.

film_disappearance_of_alice_creedBlakeson is masterful at keeping all three of his characters, and the audience, off-balance. (And while hard to watch at times, the film trades more in dread than in actual onscreen violence.) As his characters interact, and their disparate agendas alter the course of everyone’s plans, Blakeson also proves himself a master of visceral storytelling and audacious originality.

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED ★★★1/2 (out of four)

With Eddie Marsan, Martin Compston, and Gemma Arterton. Written and directed by J Blakeson. An Anchor Bay Films release. Rated R. 100 minutes.
Watch film trailer
>>>

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Feeding Frenzy

Culinary journey ‘The Trip to Italy’ isn’t the foodie film you’d expect 

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sweet Treats

Local cannabis bakers win award for cookies

 

What fashion trends do you want to see, or not see?

Santa Cruz  |  High School Guidance Counselor

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.