DVD Discovery: Magic Act

Alice Creed does a lot with a little

You know the feeling you get at the peak of a suspenseful scene? At the breathless moment where you’re waiting for the inevitable gunshot, the doom-laden footsteps or the damning, climactic line of dialogue? That simultaneously delightful and miserable squirminess? Well if you’re into that — and who isn’t, at least a little? — writer/director J Blakeson’s The Disappearance of Alice Creed is a movie you must see. It’s not just suspenseful; it comes close to being a suspense overdose. There are three characters in Alice Creed: Vic (Eddie Marsan), Danny (Martin Compston) and, of course, Alice (Gemma Arterton). There is literally no supporting cast. As for settings, the whole film takes place in maybe four or five rooms (including the back of a van) and a few bleak, open-air spaces. So in every technical sense, this is a very small movie. But what Blakeson creates in 96 minutes with the above-mentioned ingredients is huge and impressive; it is a movie so dependent on surprises that to say much about it might give too much away. On the surface, this is a thriller about a kidnapping. But just underneath the genre trappings lies an intimate study of three people driven by a lethal cocktail of fear, desperation and illusion. It’s aware of and faithful to those genre trappings though, which is what makes it so ridiculously entertaining. Visually, it has little in common with film noir, but those dark and gritty old movies are where Alice Creed’s heart lies. This thing is as hard-boiled as they come: almost gleefully nihilistic. In fact, Alice Creed is so dark and intense so often that it almost gets annoying. If every nail-biting scene hadn’t been done so well, it’d be a one-trick pony. Marsan, who’s been popping up everywhere in the last few years (including the Red Riding trilogy and Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky) is the most powerful presence, with his steely, beady eyes and gloomy mug. But Compston holds his own as Vic’s partner, nervous and boyish, sort of like an English Edward Norton. For anyone unlucky enough to have seen this summer’s Clash of the Titans, you’ll be glad to find that Arterton’s role in this movie is actually taken seriously by the filmmakers, and that she’s pretty talented. Sure, Alice is the victim, but she’s arguably as twisted and fallible as her captors. Bonus features on the DVD are sparse, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as details of funding struggles and the like sometimes dilute the magic of the film itself. If anything, the lack of supplements certainly adds to the mystique of a director who uses only one letter for his first name. One bonus scene and one extended scene are all that’s offered, and there isn’t anything terribly interesting in either. But the movie itself is what’s important, of course. And trust me, when you see Alice Creed, you’ll wonder why you’ve never heard of it before and, most of all, why movies can’t always be this good. Grade: A

posted at 11:31 pm
on Tuesday, December 07th, 2010

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