Best laid plans
The Disappearance of Alice Creed
With all the brilliance of an early Danny Boyle film, this low-key British indie flick is at risk of passing under most people’s radars, but then becoming a cult hit. So take my advice now: I urge you not to miss it.
The opening scenes eschew credits or a film title, and immediately take us into the criminal underworld of Victor and Danny, two ex-cons who appear more than capable of committing the perfect crime. With the detail of a heist film like Heat or Le Cercle Rouge, we watch the men purchase their hardware essentials and gradually renovate a shabby council flat into a fortress-like den in which they will imprison the eponymous Alice, while they demand her ransom. With scarcely a word spoken, the set-up is gripping and fascinating. We aren’t quite sure what’s going to happen, but we know it ain’t good.
Eddie Marsan (from Happy Go Lucky and Vera Drake) and the lesser-known Martin Compston, whose career boasts a slew of well-regarded arthouse films, are soon joined on screen by Gemma Arterton (a “one to watch” apparently, with a heralded performance in Tamara Drewe coming our way soon). These three work together in a game of cat and mouse – and cat – and mouse – for the duration of the film, as the plot twists and turns, and we can never anticipate exactly how things are going to turn out. Writer/director J. Blakeson has scripted a superb thriller (his first feature) that is both clever, realistic, and utterly engaging. Set in one principal location for most of the movie, it’s a feat of tight, efficient filmmaking that suffers not a jot from what must have been a modest budget.
There are echoes of Shallow Grave (not just the jaunty young Scottish protagonist) and a real feeling of dread throughout, as we watch the pair’s impeccably prepared plans unravel. It allows the audience to consider fleetingly what they might do in such a situation – until the next unavoidable twist throws everything off course yet again.
All three actors deliver terrific performances, truthful and in some instances touching, and because it is impossible to foresee each development, the tension is ratcheted up until the very last moments. A sparing soundtrack completes the effect, producing one of the best independent films of the year – and one which is destined to stick around for quite some time.