Toronto 2009 Review: J Blakeson's Disappearance of Alice Creed
by Alex Billington
September 19, 2009
What a way to end this festival! After hearing some fairly good reviews, I decided to catch J Blakeson's The Disappearance of Alice Creed as my final film of the festival, my 22nd here in Toronto. This film has such a great concept. I wouldn't call it brilliant or groundbreaking, but it's pretty damn unique. It stars only three people. It starts with two men who buy supplies and fortify an apartment for what looks to be a prison for someone they're about to kidnap and rape. A gruesome start, but there are plenty of twists and turns. They nab a girl, put her in the back of a van, bring her to the apartment, chain her up, and then we're off.
This isn't a horror film at all and it's hardly a thriller, it's much more of a straightforward drama. I really can't giveaway too much more, as part of the "fun" (if I can call it that) of watching it play out is not knowing about any of the twists. The two men, played by Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston, aren't malicious. We learn through conversation that they met in prison and setup this elaborate plan to kidnap a girl (Gemma Arterton) with a rich dad, get him to pay lots of money, and then set her free without as much as a scratch on her face. But, of course, things don't exactly go as planned because, well, there's a bit more going on.
The big twists in this, while shocking, are also actually kind of funny, and I'm not sure that was J Blakeson's intention. There were a lot of moments of dialogue and other reveals that were unintentionally funny, or at least that's what it seemed like. At first I wasn't sure whether to laugh or not, but eventually I got into it, and just started enjoying it. It was the concept, that you only ever see these three people (we're never shown her dad, the police, or anyone else) that really works so well, despite the unintentional comedy. I just found that it was so well devised, so well shot, and so well acted, that I could more often than not look past its flaws.
All of the performances are also top-notch. Eddie Marsan, who I wasn't expecting to be this impressed by (I don't even know why?), did the best job out of any of the three. Martin Compston was the weakest leak. And even Gemma Arterton, who is a big time British up-and-comer, did incredibly well for being the kidnap victim. While I know not everyone will like the concept and will be put off by the odd twists, I certainly still enjoyed it, I thought it was a brave first-time feature and considerably well-made. The Disappearance of Alice Creed may not be the best film I saw up here in Toronto, but I'm glad I caught before the fest was over.
Toronto Rating: 7.5 out of 10