The Disappearance of Alice Creed begins as we watch a couple of people do some renovations. We see them go to the store, buy hardware supplies, begin fixing up a room and a van — all without saying a word to one another. It’s only at around the five minute mark when one of them says “okay.” They put on ski masks, load a gun, and before we know what has hit us, they’ve captured a woman, chained her to the bed, gagged her, stripped her down, taken her photo, and then sat down to eat dinner.
Before this portion, the only clear word that is said was the “okay” I mentioned earlier. Oh, the woman (whose name turns out to be “Alice,” and is played by Gemma Arterton) yells out for help, but since she’s got a rubber ball in her mouth, her screams and words are all muffled. It’s only after the men begin giving her orders (like “drink this water or else you will die”) that real dialogue begins. We learn, or at least, we think we learn, why Danny (Martin Compston) and Vic (Eddie Marsan), the two men, have decided to capture Alice.
Unfortunately for us, most of the time characters are talking to one another, they’re not telling the truth. Danny knows Alice from before, so maybe they’re planning to conspire against Vic. But we see Danny and Vic share a sweet kiss, so maybe they’re actually lovers and want the ransom money for themselves. Or maybe one of them wants the money for himself, and is going to kill the other one at some point in the plan. Most of the dialogue, because of this, is disingenuous. More importantly, little of what we see actually matters by the end, and the film drags on because of this.
Most of the film involves either watching either a chained-up Alice be, well, chained-up, or the two men doing something that isn’t at all interesting. We watch them eat food, suspect one another for absolutely no reason, disappear whenever it’s convenient to the plot, and so on. These are two of the least interesting criminals I can remember watching. They’re just so boring. Give them some personality, people, so that spending a lot of time with them doesn’t become insufferable.
Alice is slightly more interesting, if only because she uses colorful language and we want to find out what she did to deserve being held hostage. It turns out, her crime was just being born to a rich father, as the two men just want his money. That’s about all we learn about her, although maybe we don’t need to know anything else. I would have liked to, but keeping her ambiguous might have worked — but only if our male characters were interesting, as that would have worked as a nice contrast between the different groups of people.
The Disappearance of Alice Creed is a thriller, although I didn’t see it as particularly thrilling. It had a couple of scenes that worked well at getting me excited, but for the most part, it was just bland. It’s like watching paint dry, except that might have been more exciting. When the two men were fixing up the room and van, I was actually entertained. Once the real plot began, and we found out why they were doing these renovations, I lost interest fast because nothing much happened. The film treads on the same turf it recently covered too many times, and it feels repetitive because of this.
You could probably sum up the story of this film in a paragraph. Completely sum it up, mind you, not just summarize it. You know, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but in this case, which relies a lot on misdirection between characters, it is. Things need to actually happen in order to keep the audience engaged. And if things aren’t happening, let us at least learn about the characters. When all they’re doing is lying and not doing anything physically, we’re left to sit there and wait for something to actually happen. I wanted to lie down and take a nap.
At least you can call this a “minimalist” film and not have anyone yell at you for it. There are only three actors, there are only a couple of locations, and there isn’t anything here that would up the budget. Depending on actor salary, this could easily be a film that cost under $1 million to make. It’s this that makes me think we should be thankful The Disappearance of Alice Creed got made at all, although sitting through it certainly didn’t give me that feeling.
If there’s one positive thing to take from this movie, it’s how committed the actors were to their roles. All three seemed perfectly willing to do whatever it took for the script to work. It didn’t seem like a fun place to film either, with the set seeming dirty, and a couple of the actors had to roll around in the filth — while naked. Their commitment made the film believable; it’s just too bad that it didn’t make it enjoyable.
I didn’t enjoy The Disappearance of Alice Creed. It’s a cheap, minimalist “thriller,” but it didn’t thrill and it didn’t entertain, even if the actors were all very strong. It needed something to happen to keep me interested. The characters talked about doing things, but they rarely got around to accomplishing what they promised. When action did happen, I’ll admit that it got me excited. Too bad this only happened a handful of times, and most of the film is a drab and boring watch. I’ll give it to the actors for almost elevating it to a watchable level, but in the end, it wasn’t something I can recommend.