The axiom in Hollywood these days is that more is better. Every year we get inundated with blockbuster films sporting $200 million budgets, groundbreaking f/x, epic journeys and casts of thousands. Enter first-time director J. Blakeson and his intimate and quite claustrophobic thriller, The Disappearance Of Alice Creed. Right from the start we know that we’re in for something completely different. There are no opening credits of any kind. There isn’t even a title screen. We don’t get that until about 90 or so minutes later when the film is over. In between you will experience the leanest, meanest little movie you likely have ever seen.
Two hoods, Danny (Compston) and Vic (Marsan), are preparing meticulously for their big crime. They kidnap Alice Creed (Arterton) and tie her to a bed with a blindfold and ball gag. Everything is planned down to the most minute detail. It all seems to be going perfectly. But, like all so-called perfect crimes, there are going to be some hitches in this one.
Blakeson never strays from his bread and butter in this film. He allows us to see all of this planning and execution. Then he lures us into a false sense of complacency as he peels back the twists and turns of the story without the usual artistic frills or the need to be so clever as to outsmart himself or his audience. Timing is everything in this thriller. Blakeson finds a way to reveal his breadcrumbs at just enough of a pace to keep us interested while still keeping the deliberate mood of the piece. There are only three actors/characters in the entire film. There’s nothing wasted in the presentation. The shots don’t linger for effect. The lighting and cinematography are not overtly complicated. It’s all just as simple as you please. And that’s what makes watching this movie quite an enjoyable change of pace from the more frequent modes that filmmakers too often succumb to. No tricks. No frills. Just old-school acting and writing. What’s not to love?
The Disappearance Of Alice Creed is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 25 mbps. This is a very simple presentation. Nothing is going to jump from the screen and take your breath away. The entire image is completely natural. Colors are all pretty much neutral. Black levels reveal fair shadow definition but nothing more. The level of detail is certainly up to spec for a high-definition release, but there are no elaborate set designs or textures to distract from the central images and ideas. Close-ups are probably the most revealing parts of the image. The actors do a good job of staying natural, so they look and feel like genuine people throughout. There the image does a pretty solid job without really trying too much.
The Dolby True.HD 5.1 is just as simple. The score is almost non-existent. Blakeson prefers to let the situations and the performances carry the emotional atmosphere of the film. Dialog is really all that stands out. Even that is performed often in hushed tones that always cut through the mix. There is even an excellent use of silence here. What you do not hear is often just as important as what you do hear.
There is an Audio Commentary with J. Blakeson. It’s pretty much a straightforward presentation on the making of the film. He comes across very much like a regular guy and not near as full of himself as many. It’s not one of those pat-yourself-on-the-back affairs that are so tedious these days.
Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary.
If this is any indication, I’d say that Blakeson has a promising career ahead of him. The danger is to not make this a one-trick-pony situation. He’ll have to move on to more complicated setups and ideas. But if he can maintain his rather simple philosophy and not try to prove anything with his future films, I rather look forward to our next meeting on film. There are those who will find the film too simple and not as engaging as they are used to. The opposite is true. While it is a simple film, it is quite engaging. You get sucked into these characters, and you’ll find yourself really caring what happens to all three of them. Others think there’s not enough virtuosity on screen. What I see is sheer instinct. Others will warn you not to waste your time on this one. I say have a look see. “Who are you going to listen to?”