It isn’t often that kidnapping movies have truly surprising twists. They’re like bank robberies; the villains either get away with the money or they don’t. They may or may not kill the hostages. And almost without exception, someone in the group will turn and try to take the money for themselves. Alice Creed, the fictitious kidnapping victim for whom the movie is named, gives the audience an unexpected shock midway through the film. What makes the revelation so startling? Its simplicity.
We begin by witnessing the creation of an oubliette. We watch as the walls of an apartment (flat) are covered with soundproofing material, and anchors and eyelets are screwed into bed framing like a macabre Ikea furniture set. Plastic is hung on the walls of a moving van. Bundles of nondescript outfits are folded, worn, removed, and changed throughout every stage of the kidnapping. For fans of the serial-killer show, Dexter, this movie is the counterpart for ransoming a human being. The attention to detail is superb, and wholly supports the first act.
Enter Alice Creed, the only daughter of a faceless millionaire, snatched off the streets by the kidnapping duo. They shuttle her off bagged and gagged to their casa-de-abduction and rope her to the bed. The process of stripping her down to refit her with generic jogging clothes and bringing in a bedpan for her personal needs are especially tense scenes. They feel vulnerable, and the lack of characterization of the kidnappers early in the movie keeps you wondering, and just as in the dark as the blindfolded damsel. There’s no way to know how violent or depraved the two men are.
Inevitably, one of the men know Alice Creed from earlier in their lives, and therein lies the seed of drama which sets this movie apart. Without spoiling too much I’ll simply say that a strange love triangle emerges, built on remnants of past relationships prior to the kidnapping, and the word ‘love’ becomes a weapon and an excuse for almost all bizarre behavior. “...because I love you” is thrown around so many times I fully expected the on-set cameraman and lighting-grip to get in on the lovefest.
The most impressive part of this movie is the emotional content (far better than Ransom; Mel Gibson screaming red-faced into a phone). Its relatively unknown cast does a superb job. Creed is played by Gemma Arterton from Prince of Persia and Clash of the Titans, alongside Eddie Marsan from The Illusionist and Martin Compston. The three deliver their lines with believable force, regardless of how strained the credulity of the situation. You can almost taste the independent brands of psychological disorder woven into each character.
The money or your life...
I can certainly recommend this movie to first time viewers. It’s interesting, it’s tense, and it’s unpredictable. But I would suggest renting it or watching it on Netflix, not necessarily purchasing it. The depth of the movie is limited to its stunning developments. Unless you have a very short memory, watching The Disappearance of Alice Creed more than once feels like staring at Hot Wheels cars circling a plastic track.