In my local cinema there’s room for two giant posters between the cashiers and the staircase. This past fortnight those posters announced two movies, Tamara Drewe and The Disappearance of Alice Creed. Officially it hasn’t been announced, but let’s face it… with two films debuting on the same day, it would only be fair to call this Gemma Arterton week.
Disappearance is the film worthier of a lengthy DV review. Certain reviewers have compared it to Danny Boyle‘s Shallow Grave, which – as far as comparisons go – is quite a bit of a compliment. Alice Creed, portrayed by the omnipresent Gemma, is a young woman who’s suddenly abducted by two men. The abduction has been carefully planned: the room she’ll be staying in is soundproof, the inside of the van she’ll be abducted in is layered, circumstantial evidence like clothes and mobile phones will be destroyed or discarded as waste, several blocks from the crime scene. The result is one disappeared Alice and one question for both the viewer and Alice herself: why Alice Creed?
You’ll never guess it, but I don’t feel like revealing the plot, so don’t expect me to answer this question. Alice is suddenly grabbed from the street, taken to an empty room, stripped off all her clothes and left… tied to a bed, naked with only a ballgag and a bag over her head. And here’s the good news… Disappearance manages to showcase this in a dignified fashion. Sure, you’ll see the occasional bit of naked flesh, but the film doesn’t abuse the nudity of the victim.
Partially because of the well-chosen camera standpoints. In fact, for a movie that spends at least half of its time in one apartment all the camera angles are excellenty chosen. For obvious reasons, there aren’t too many wide angles, but every shot – from room-filling to extreme close-up – seems to be carefully picked.
In a lot of scenes Arterton doesn’t look sexy as damsels in distress tend to do in most thrillers or horror movies: she looks like a scared and confused victim. Violence is not glorified here.
Similarly, DV is now able to mention the entire cast of the film. There’s Alice (Arterton) and her abductors Danny (Martin Compston) and Vic (Eddie Marsan). And, erm, that’s it. What makes this film so effective is that there’s nothing outside this small cast. There’s two abductors, one abductee and their mutual relationships. You’ll be as close to the characters as you are in a play.
The film provides a couple of twists, some a bit more original than you can expect in thrillers. Often there’s only one giant twist at the end, but in The Disappearance the relationship between the characters changes more than once. Let’s thank J. Blakeson for this, the director but also the screenwriter of this film. Is this the most original film of the past decade? We think not. But is it an excellent example of “less is more”? Oh yes. Sure, the final half of the film is less exciting, but this is only natural: there are only three people present and rather than revealing the plot (as would happen in most movies), the plot is now revealed and the viewer is left with the equally essential question: now that this has been established, what’ll happen next? It’s not revelation here, it’s elaboration.
Then again, it’s the sort of film – and poster! – you’d see more often in the 1970s than in the 21st century, so no wonder DV likes it. And it’s like going to a play, without the discomfort of having to spend 100 minutes around obnoxious people. That’s gotta be worth something…