January 09, 2014

Lerman's 14 For '14 Day Six: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED And The Inauguration Of Marty Walsh

"Love you too, babe."
Put simply, I love everything about this movie.

Great opening sequence?  Check.

Charismatic actors?  Check.

Strong performances?  Check.

Confident visual style?  Check.

Economy of storytelling?  Check.

Engaging and surprising script?  That's a BIG check.

The Disappearance Of Alice Creed details the kidnapping of a beautiful British woman (Gemma Arterton) by two cold and calculating criminals (Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston) in order to secure a hefty ransom from her wealthy father.  Plotwise, that's all you need to know going into the film and I'd encourage you to not let anyone reveal any more details.  So much of what makes the film so damn compelling is the way that writer/director J. Blakeson communicates all the relevant information in slow drips, delaying every revelation until the last possible second.  There's no speechifying, no monologues full of exposition to clue the audience into the characters or their backstories.  We are simply dropped into the middle of the story and forced to decipher motivations and relationships from the subtlest of clues, so that when a scene reaches the breaking point and a character finally drops some knowledge, whether it's for the benefit of another character or the audience at home, it catches you completely off guard.  And as someone who spent a number of my formative years in the theater, it's hard not to love a story that only has three characters and takes place largely in a single location.  The first 45 minutes are simply brilliant, winding up all the players, setting them on a collision course and then letting them loose to see who comes out the other side.

I must admit that, as sometimes happens in this endeavor, my own scheduling dilemma certainly made a big impact on my viewing of the film.  Jamie and I got some last minute tickets to the Inauguration Gala for Marty Walsh, the new Mayor of Boston.  Obviously it was a fancy affair that required a bit of preparation and would keep us out rather late on a Monday night, so I knew I wouldn't have time to watch the whole movie either before or after the event.  Splitting the movie in two seemed like my best option, so I got through about the first 35 minutes and, directly following the first major twist in the plot, felt like I had probably reached an ideal pause point.  We got all gussied up, met Warren and his family downtown, and had an absolute blast.  There was food, booze, and a lengthy performance by the Boston Symphony Orhestra, assisted by the likes of Blue Man Group, Ellis Hall and The Dropkick Murphys.  (Sidenote: I had this very strange moment, standing at a political gala in a suit alongside my wife and listening to a prestigious symphony play backup for the same punk rockers I used to go see in high school while stage diving and jumping around in the mosh pit.  Being a grown up is weird.)

After Mayor Walsh came up and gave his remarks, Jamie and I decided to split before the majority of the crowd found its way to the coat check line.  By 11:30 I was settled back on my couch and excited to jump back into the movie, having had some time to mull over that big reveal.  I pressed play and, within five minutes, was suddenly presented with another twist that absolutely blew the first one out of the water.  Thinking back upon it now, I'm not sure if I would have found it awesome or off-putting getting both of those shocks within minutes of each other, as opposed to spaced out with a six hour interlude full of whiskey and political ceremony.  Those two scenes are certainly the defining ten minutes of the movie from a tonal perspective and in truth I probably robbed myself of experiencing it properly.  But after over 300 movies, sometimes that's just the way it goes.

Regardless, The Disappearance Of Alice Creed is still a phenomenal crime drama, as well as fabulous showcase for the considerable talents of Eddie Marsan, Gemma Arterton and Martin Compston.  While I'm unfamiliar with Compston, I'm on record as a big of both Marsan and Arterton, each of whom had some limited success here in the states in 2013 with stuff like The World's End and Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters, respectively.  Alice Creed was a big moment for both of them and left them each poised and ready to break out in a major way.  Sadly it hasn't quite happened for either of them yet, but it feels like only a matter of time before Arterton ends up in a marquee franchise and Marsan snags a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.  I'm honestly surprised it's taken this long.


What's The Connection? - As the titles suggest, The Vanishing and The Disappearance Of Alice Creed both feature kidnapped women.  Pretty clear cut.

Up Next - Memories Of Murder

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Title: The Disappearance Of Alice Creed
Director: J Blakeson
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Eddie Marsan, Martin Compston
Year Of Release: 2009
Viewing Method: Netflix DVD