Review: The Disappearance of Alice Creed

CHLOE MASHITER: Read ‘this vocabulary-stretching-praise-fest’ then go see the film.

Battle Royale Eddie Marsan Gemma Arterton Martin Compston Wikipedia

Poor Wikipedia – it does try. There it was, thinking it had finally got something right when I had to tell it that this film’s not a thriller. You can’t blame it for making the mistake when even the posters bill it as one, even though this is like calling Battle Royale a period drama. Whilst the film is a thriller in parts, it’s also a drama, melodrama, rom-com, sitcom and soft-core torture porn. Ultimately, however, it’s a horror film. The sense of quiet but undeniable terror when you leave the cinema testifies to that.

It revolves around the simple premise of: men kidnap girl; one thing goes wrong; cue massive power struggle. More specifically it follows ex-cons Danny (Martin Compston) and Vic (Eddie Marsan) abducting Alice (Gemma Arterton) in a chillingly precise plan to get two million in ransom money. Of course, it’s not long before a few ‘minor’ details mean that none of them are safe. 

I now face the classic dilemma: to spoil or not to spoil. This film has more twists than a multipack of Flumps and reviewing it without revealing them is made even more difficult by the comic mileage they offer. Around the fifty-minute-mark, the film makes a move so unexpected and preposterous that Brian Blessed shouting his way onto screen dressed as King Kong would’ve elicited less laughter. But I genuinely think you should see this film, so I’m going to exercise some restraint.

If the script is what makes you laugh, it’s the amazing performances that stun you into a harrowed silence. Arterton effortlessly glides between her roles as vulnerable prisoner, cold manipulator and ambitious escapee. Compston does a remarkable job of brilliantly disguising the fact that, essentially, his character notes read little more than ‘plonker’. As for Marsan, I simply can’t find the superlatives: he manages to intimidate and menace with the line ‘breakfast time!’ before becoming a tragically empathetic figure, all the while remaining convincing.

What this film accomplishes so well is sustaining constant tension without resorting to outlandish shock tactics. We don’t see Danny and Vic getting supplies from Villains R Us – they trundle around B&Q for soundproofing equipment and pick up self-assembly bed frames from IKEA. The details of this film ensure that the suffering, humiliation, pain and fear that the characters suffer all occurs in a very ordinary, very possible world. Maybe the lack of oversized weapons, homicidal tendencies or supernatural threats is what’s led some to think this isn’t a horror film, but actually it’s the normality of it that makes it so terrifying.

Everything about this film has been carefully thought through to maximum effect: even the title becomes haunting when you realise it’s duality robs the ambiguous ending of any comfort. And if this vocabulary-stretching-praise-fest hasn’t yet convinced you to go, here’s an incentive for the lowest-common-denominator readers: you’ll get a decent look at Gemma Arterton’s tits. Now go and see this film.