Intermittently compelling, director J Blackson’s The Disappearance of Alice Creed initially coasts on its intriguing setup but quickly unravels in the second half. Few words are uttered in the first 15 minutes, allowing the shocking events surrounding the kidnapping of an unsuspecting young English woman by two anonymously masked men to unfold provocatively with an unyielding tautness. The film begins to run into trouble as the story unfolds, and it becomes painstakingly clear that the director would rather play ping pong with ludicrous plot points than actually sustain the initial mood he so captivatingly created.
Vic (Eddie Marsan) and Danny (Martin Compston) design a well-arranged plan to kidnap a random rich girl, Alice Creed (Geema Arterton), for ransom, betting the father will pay up once he sees his defenseless daughter tied up and bruised. Their plan does not involve killing the girl; the two just want the money. We soon learn, though, that the girl may not be as random as we once thought, sharing a strong connection to one of the kidnappers, producing a cause-and-effect spiral of events that ends in death.
Taking place almost entirely in a confined one-bedroom apartment, Alice Creed methodically uncoils as the two conspirators quickly build a soundproof, guarded safe house to stow the soon-to-be-victim. Also, a few scenes are dramatically jarring, as when Marsan’s character hysterically questions the squirming victim, realizing he might be the one being played in this cat-and-mouse game. However, what is ultimately perplexing is the fact that the director substitutes the early, delicate pacing for an endless tally of twists and turns, never crafting fully developed characters. We never really root for anyone, and only the well-studied character actor Marsan is truly able to salvage his role of Vic, expressing a brash, transfixing energy and layered complexity few actors are successful at pulling off. Arterton also does her best at overcoming the limitations of the role and story.
At least with last year’s Tribeca selection Don McKay, there was campy fun to be had as the dominos fell and the mysteries behind the characters were revealed. Here, though, we’re left with the sinking feeling that Blackson played his cards too early, inconsistently treading along to the final, implausible finale.
The Disappearance of Alice Creed will play on April 24, 25, and 26 as part of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. For more information click here.